Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them
The completed creation
THE CREATION WAS A GRADUAL PROCESS. The reasons might be--
II. THE CREATIVE PROCESS AT LAST CAME TO A POINT IN MAN. (G. Gilfillan.)
Lessons from the Mosaic account of creation
1. That the universe as it exists now is different from the universe as it existed once.
2. That the creation of the world was not the work of many gods, but of One.
3. That it was a Person that effected this vast work, and not some law of the universe gradually educing all things from a power that was inherent in matter.
4. Respecting the character of the Creator, the Israelite was taught that He had formed all things good.
5. The Israelite was taught also the divinity of order: that it is the law of man’s existence; that the unregulated or unruly heart is like the ship with an insubordinate crew which is wrecked on the ocean; that order is to pervade the church, to rule the state, to regulate the family, to influence man’s personal happiness, his affections, his desires.
6. The Israelite was taught also this: that it was gradation that regulated God’s creation, to be traced not only in this that the more perfect forms of life were created last, but also in the fact that more work was done at the close than at the beginning of the creative period. And this is true of every work which will stand the test of time. It must not be hastily done, but thoughtfully planned and carried out with steady and increasing energy. God who works for eternity lays His foundations deep, He does not extemporize. It matters not whether it be in things great or small: quick, mere outside work is done for time; meant for show, it falls speedily to nothing, there is in it nothing belonging to eternity. If then a man would follow God, he must be content to toil and toil to the last.
7. Once more, the principle of the providence of the Almighty emerges from the history of the creation. We read of man’s creation and the creation of the beasts. The vegetables He did not create till the earth was dry; the animals not till the vegetables were prepared for their sustenance; and man not till the kingdom was put in order which man should rule. Now this is what we call providence in God, foresight or prudence in man. Thus we see how a mere earthly virtue may in another sense be a spiritual excellence, and it is the duty of man to rise into this higher view. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
The second account of creation
This is, observe, a second account, not a continuation of the first. Yet let us not suppose for one moment that these are two separate accounts thrown together with no object. They are manifestly linked together, each is supplemental to the other. In the first, we have these spiritual truths--the unity of God, His personality, His order: in the second, His dealings with nature and with the mind of man. God gives man law, and annexes to his obedience and disobedience reward and punishment. We make three remarks on this second account.
1. The first is with reference to the reason given for man’s creation, that there was a man wanted to till the ground. We should not have said that of man. We should have held another view, and looked upon ourselves as the rulers of this world for whom all things were created, were it not for this verse which teaches us the truth. In the order of creation man is the highest; but the object for which man is created is that he should, like all the rest, minister to the advance of all things. That is our position here; we are here to do the world’s work.
2. The next thing we have to observe is the unity of the human race. All that we are told in the first account is that God, in the beginning, created them male and female. All that we are told in the second is that He placed Adam and Eve in paradise. Theologically, the unity of the human race is of great importance. Between the highest and the lowest animals there is an everlasting difference, but none between the highest and lowest men; and it is only as this is realized that we can ever feel the existence of our common humanity in Jesus Christ.
3. The next thing to observe is this, that we have here a hint respecting immortality. It must have struck every attentive reader of the Scriptures, that in the Old Testament there is so little allusion to futurity. We are told, in a phrase that declares the dignity of man’s nature, that God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And when the mind of the Israelite began to brood on this he would remember that there was also a sad, dark intimation, “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,” apparently a denial of immortality. But then there were aspirations in the soul that never could be quenched; and this yearning aspiration would bring him back again to ask: “Dust is not all; the breath of God, what has become of that?” (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
First, God says, I made all these earthly treasures which you see; value them for My sake, and do not misuse them. A child on its birthday finds a present on its plate at breakfast time. Who could have put it there? Presently, the father says, “I put it there, my child: it is my gift to you.” Has not that gift, however small it be, a value over and above its intrinsic worth as bought in a shop? And still more, if the father says, “I did not buy it, I made it for you myself.” Let us all so regard God’s gifts to us! Secondly, God says, I made you: I made that wonderful body of yours out of the material elements, the “dust of the ground,” and I breathed into it that “living soul” which makes the body alive. So says Genesis 2:7. But look also at Genesis 1:26. There God seems to say, I did more than this: I made you in My image, like Myself; are you like Me? No, indeed, we are not; but then comes in the new creation in Christ Jesus. Christ is “the image of the invisible God,” and He took our human nature. If we yield ourselves to Him, He will make us “partakers of the Divine nature” 2 Peter 1:4), and hereafter “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (E. Stock.)
The theology of creation
I. THAT CREATION IS AN EXPRESSION OF GOD’S MIND. It is the embodiment of an idea; the form of a thought. Theology says that creation had a beginning, and that it began at the bidding of God.
II. THAT CREATION, BEING AN EXPRESSION OF GOD’S MIND, MAY FORM THE BASIS FOR THE CONSIDERATION OF GOD’S PERSONALITY AND CHARACTER. If we see something of the artist in his work, we may see something of the Creator in creation.
1. The works of God proclaim His eternal and incommunicable sovereignty. Man cannot approach the dignity of having himself created anything. He is an inquirer, a speculator, a calculator, a talker--but not a creator. He can reckon the velocity of light, and the speed of a few stars. He can go out for a day to geologize and botanize; but all the while a secret has mocked him, and an inscrutable power has defied the strength of his arm. The theologian says, that secret is God--that power is Omnipotence.
2. There is more than sovereignty, there is beneficence. “Thou openest Thine hand; they are filled with good.” “He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.” This is a step downwards, yet a step upwards. Over all is the dread sovereignty of God--that sovereignty stoops to us in love to save our life, to spread our table and to dry our tears; it comes down, yet in the very condescension of its majesty it adds a new ray to its lustre. The theologian says, This is God’s care; this is the love of the Father; this bounty is an expression of the heart of God. It is not a freak of what is called nature; it is not a sunny chance; it is a purpose, a sign of love, a direct gift from God’s own heart.
III. THAT GOD’S WORD IS ITS OWN SECURITY FOR FULFILMENT. God said, Let there be--and there was. “He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” This is the word which alone can ultimately prevail. This is of infinite importance--
IV. THAT THE WORD WHICH ACCOUNTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF NATURE ACCOUNTS ALSO FOR THE EXISTENCE OF MAN. “Know ye not that the Lord He is God? It is He that made us, and not we ourselves.” “O Lord, Thou art our Father; we are the clay, and Thou our potter; and we are the work of Thy hand.” “Have we not all one Father? hath not one God created us?” “We are the offspring of God”: “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.” See what a great system of unity is hereby established. He who made the sun made me!
V. ALL THINGS CONTROLLED BY THE CREATOR.
VI. ALL THINGS JUDGED BY THE CREATOR. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The work of creation
I. We are to consider WHAT THINGS GOD DID CREATE IN THE PERIOD OF SIX DAYS.
II. THAT THOSE THINGS, WHICH WERE CREATED AT THAT ONE PERIOD OF TIME, COMPRISED, OR INCLUDED ALL THINGS THAT EVER WERE CREATED.
1. There is reason to think that when God began to create, He would not rest, until He had completely finished His whole work of creation. This Moses represents Him to have done in the text.
2. All the works of God must compose but one whole, or perfect system. This we may safely conclude from the perfect wisdom of God. He could not consistently begin, or continue to operate, before He had formed a wise and benevolent design to be answered by creation.
3. Those things which we know God did create in six days, compose a whole, or form a complete system. The lower heaven is intimately connected with the earth. The sun, the moon, the stars, the firmament, the atmosphere, the heat, the cold, the clouds and the rain, were all made for the service and benefit of mankind; and are so necessary, that they could not subsist without the kindly influence of these things, which belong to the lower heaven. And it is no less evident that there is a constituted connection between the inhabitants of the upper heaven and the inhabitants of this lower world.
4. Those things which were created in six days, not only form a whole, or system, but the most perfect system conceivable. All the parts, taken together, appear to be completely suited to answer the highest and best possible end that God could propose to answer by creation.
5. It appears from the process of the great day, that angels and men are the only rational creatures who will then be called to give an account of their conduct.
1. It appears from what has been said, that the enemies of Divine revelation have no just ground to object against the Bible because it does not give a true and full account of the work of creation.
2. If angels and men are all the intelligent beings that God created in six days, then there is no reason to think that this world, after the day of judgment, will be a place of residence for either the happy or miserable part of mankind.
3. If God acted systematically in the work of creation, and formed every individual in connection with and in relation to the whole, then we may justly conclude that He always acts systematically in governing the world.
4. If God created all things at once, and as one whole connected system, then He can remove all the darkness which now rests, or ever has rested, on His providence. It is only to bring all His intelligent creatures together, and show them their relations to and connection with each other; and that will discover the various reasons of His conduct towards every individual, and convince them all that He has been holy, wise, and just, in all the dispensations of His providence and grace. When they see the same reasons that He saw for His conduct, it will carry irresistible evidence to every created being, that He has treated him perfectly right.
5. If God created all things at once, to answer a certain great and good purpose, then that day will be a glorious day, when this purpose shall be completely accomplished. And it will be completely accomplished at the end of the world. So that the end of the world will be a far more glorious day than the day of creation.
6. If the end of the world will exhibit such a blaze of perfect light, then we may be sure that it will fix all intelligent creatures in their final and unalterable state. Those who are happy in the light of the last day, must necessarily be happy forever; and those who are unhappy in Chat light, must be unhappy and completely miserable forever. (N. Emmons, D. D.)
The form of the record of creation
The first narrative commences, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”: and then follows the detail of God’s work through the six days of creation, concluding with His rest on the Sabbath of the seventh. This carries us to the third verse of the second chapter. But with the fourth verse we make a new commencement. “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created”: words which appear to refer solely to what follows them, and to contain no recognition of the narrative which has just preceded. This second account traverses a new and more deeply interesting field, as far as the end of the fourth chapter. But with the fifth chapter again we seem to encounter a third commencement: “This is the book of the generations of Adam”; a clause which is followed up, after a very brief summary of creation containing no direct allusion to the fall, by the genealogy of the earliest line of Patriarchs.
1. The first chapter, as contrasted with the others, relates especially to the physical aspect of creation. It deals more with powers than with persons: more with the establishment of law, than with the gift of will.
2. But the second narrative at once enters on the moral record. Man is now charged with personal duties, and holds individual relations to the Personal Jehovah. There is a moral law, a moral probation, a punishment which it would need a moral principle to understand. While man’s dominion is defined and explained, as the beasts are summoned to their master to receive their names, yet he is taught that he must obey as well as rule: that if he is higher than the brute creation, there is a law, again, which is higher than himself; which he cannot break without descending from his sovereignty, and submitting to the forfeiture of death. And then follows the minute history of his fatal trial, fall, expulsion from Eden. To this division belongs the whole fourth chapter, which does but lead us from that point of expulsion, through the original quarrel between Abel and Cain, up to the actual establishment of a Church, and the consequent establishment, by exclusion, of an ungodly world, when men began to call upon the name of Jehovah, and so again to recognize a personal God.
3. Then this scene also closes. It had unveiled relations which exist upon this world no longer. It had spoken of higher communion, and of purer glory, than the fallen mind can maintain, or than the eyes of the fallen can behold. Adam now stands only as the highest term in these our mortal genealogies. There is no further notice of the innocence which he had lost; of that open intercourse with God which he had forfeited; of the mode in which sin had found an entrance into this world; of the establishment of a Church, as defining and completing the separation, between those who were satisfied with their evil, and those who were struggling to recover their good. And this is the account of creation, which especially connects it with our present history.
I. IT MUST BE OUR CARE TO OBSERVE, NOT ONLY WHAT GOD WORKS, BUT WITHAL HOW HE DISPOSETH, AND ORDERETH THAT WHICH HE HATH WROUGHT.
1. Because the excellency and perfection of every work is in the end whereunto it is directed and applied.
2. Because the wisdom of God is most discovered in the ordering and disposing of His works, as His power is most seen in creating of them: as usually the workman’s skill is more commended in the use of an instrument than in the making and framing of it.
II. THE CREATURES THAT GOD HATH MADE ARE TO BE LOOKED ON AS AN ARMY ARRAYED IN AN EXCELLENT AND WELL COMPOSED ORDER.
1. Let all men carefully search into the order, mutual correspondence, and scope, whereunto all the ways of God, in the administration of the creatures, tend.
2. Tremble before that God, and trust in Him that hath power in His hand to command all the creatures in heaven and earth, and to arm them at His pleasure for the defence of those that fear Him, and against such as hate Him.
III. GOD PERFECTETH AND FULLY FINISHETH EVERY WORK THAT HE TAKES IN HAND.
1. In their measure, which is proportioned to the end, whereunto they were appointed.
2. And in their time, for they are brought to perfection by degrees, as David professeth of the framing of His own body (Psalms 139:16).
(a) Of sanctification. God, according to His promises, will not leave purging us till He have made us without spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:17-20).
(b) Of our salvation (Philippians 1:6). He that suffered for us, till all was finished (Job 19:30), will not leave till He have brought us into thefull possession of the glory which He hath purchased for us. (J. White, M. A.)
The completed creation
God now proclaims the completion of His creation work. It was no mere sketch or outline: it was no half-finished plan: it was a “finished” work. A goodly and glorious work! Not merely on account of what we see and touch in it, but on account of what we cannot see or touch. For creation is full of secrets. Science, in these last days, has extracted not a few, but how many remain secrets still! What a multitude of hidden wonders does each part of creation contain! Outwardly, how marvellous for the order, beauty, utility of all its parts; inwardly, how much more marvellous for the secret springs of life, motion, order, health, fruitfulness, and power! Each part, how wondrous in itself, as perfect in its kind; yet no less wondrous, as wrapping up within itself the seeds of ten thousand other creations, as perfect, hereafter to spring from them! God proclaims the perfection of His works, not as man does, in vainglory, but that He may fix our eye on their excellency, and let us know that He, the Former of them, is fully satisfied, and that His work is now ready for its various functions and uses. The great machine is completed, and now about to begin its operations. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
Genesis 1:1-31; Genesis 2:1-25
IF anyone is in search of accurate information regarding the age of this earth, or its relation to the sun, moon, and stars, or regarding the order in which plants and animals have appeared upon it, he is referred to recent textbooks in astronomy, geology, and palaeontology. No one for a moment dreams of referring a serious student of these subjects to the Bible as a source of information. It is not the object of the writers of Scripture to impart physical instruction or to enlarge the bounds of scientific knowledge. But if any one wishes to know what connection the world has with God, if he seeks to trace back all that now is to the very fountain-head of life, if he desires to discover some unifying principle, some illuminating purpose in the history of this earth, then we confidently refer him to these and the subsequent chapters of Scripture as his safest, and indeed his only, guide to the information he seeks. Every writing must be judged by the object the writer has in view. If the object of the writer of these chapters was to convey physical information, then certainly it is imperfectly fulfilled. But if his object was to give an intelligible account of God’s relation to the world and to man, then it must be owned that he has been successful in the highest degree.
It is therefore unreasonable to allow our reverence for this writing to be lessened because it does not anticipate the discoveries of physical science; or to repudiate its authority in its own department of truth because it does not give us information which it formed no part of the writer’s object to give. As well might we deny to Shakespeare a masterly knowledge of human life, because his dramas are blotted by historical anachronisms. That the compiler of this book of Genesis did not aim at scientific accuracy in speaking of physical details is obvious, not merely from the general scope and purpose of the Biblical writers, but especially from this, that in these first two chapters of his book he lays side by side two accounts of man’s creation which no ingenuity can reconcile. These two accounts, glaringly incompatible in details, but absolutely harmonious in their leading ideas, at once warn the reader that the writer’s aim is rather to convey certain ideas regarding man’s spiritual history and his connection with God, than to describe the process of creation. He does describe the process of creation, but he describes it only for the sake of the ideas regarding man’s relation to God and God’s relation to the world which he can thereby convey. Indeed what we mean by scientific knowledge was not in all the thoughts of the people for whom this book was written. The subject of creation, of the beginning of man upon earth, was not approached from that side at all; and if we are to understand what is here written we must burst the trammels of our own modes of thought and read these chapters not as a chronological, astronomical, geological, biological statement, but as a moral or spiritual conception.
It will, however, be said, and with much appearance of justice, that although the first object of the writer was not to convey scientific information, yet he might have been expected to be accurate in the information he did advance regarding the physical universe. This is an enormous assumption to make on a priori grounds, but it is an assumption worth seriously considering because it brings into view a real and important difficulty which every reader of Genesis must face. It brings into view the twofold character of this account of creation. On the one hand it is irreconcilable with the teachings of science. On the other hand it is in striking contrast to the other cosmogonies which have been handed down from prescientific ages. These are the two patent features of this record of creation and both require to be accounted for. Either feature alone would be easily accounted for; but the two co-existing in the same document are more baffling. We have to account at once for a want of perfect coincidence with the teachings of science, and for a singular freedom from those errors which disfigure all other primitive accounts of the creation of the world. The one feature of the document is as patent as the other and presses equally for explanation.
Now many persons cut the knot by simply denying that both these features exist. There is no disagreement with science, they say. I speak for many careful enquirers when I say that this cannot serve as a solution of the difficulty. I think it is to be freely admitted that, from whatever cause and however justifiably, the account of creation here given is not in strict and detailed accordance with the teaching of science. All attempts to force its statements into such accord are futile and mischievous. They are futile because they do not convince independent enquirers, but only those who are unduly anxious to be convinced. And they are mischievous because they unduly prolong the strife between Scripture and science, putting the question on a false issue. And above all, they are to be condemned because they do violence to Scripture, foster a style of interpretation by which the text is forced to say whatever the interpreter desires, and prevent us from recognising the real nature of these sacred writings. The Bible needs no defence such as false constructions of its language bring to its aid. They are its worst friends who distort its words that they may yield a meaning more in accordance with scientific truth. If, for example, the word "day" in these chapters, does not mean a period of twenty-four hours, the interpretation of Scripture is hopeless. Indeed if we are to bring these chapters into any comparison at all with science, we find at once various discrepancies. Of a creation of sun, moon, and stars, subsequent to the creation of this earth, science can have but one thing to say. Of the existence of fruit trees prior to the existence of the sun, science knows nothing. But for a candid and unsophisticated reader without a special theory to maintain, details are needless.
Accepting this chapter then as it stands, and believing that only by looking at the Bible as it actually is can we hope to understand God’s method of revealing Himself, we at once perceive that ignorance of some departments of truth does not disqualify a man for knowing and imparting truth about God. In order to be a medium of revelation a man does not need to be in advance of his age in secular learning. Intimate communion with God, a spirit trained to discern spiritual things, a perfect understanding of and zeal for God’s purpose, these are qualities quite independent of a knowledge of the discoveries of science. The enlightenment which enables men to apprehend God and spiritual truth has no necessary connection with scientific attainments. David’s confidence in God and his declarations of His faithfulness are none the less valuable, because he was ignorant of a very great deal which every schoolboy now knows. Had inspired men introduced into their writings information which anticipated the discoveries of science, their state of mind would be inconceivable, and revelation would be a source of confusion. God’s methods are harmonious with one another, and as He has given men natural faculties to acquire scientific knowledge and historical information, He did not stultify this gift by imparting such knowledge in a miraculous and unintelligible manner. There is no evidence that inspired men were in advance of their age in the knowledge of physical facts and laws. And plainly, had they been supernaturally instructed in physical knowledge they would so far have been unintelligible to those to whom they spoke. Had the writer of this book mingled with his teaching regarding God, an explicit and exact account of how this world came into existence-had he spoken of millions of years instead of speaking of days-in all probability he would have been discredited, and what he had to say about God would have been rejected along with his premature science. But speaking from the point of view of his contemporaries, and accepting the current ideas regarding the formation of the world, he attached to these the views regarding God’s connection with the world which are most necessary to be believed. What he had learned of God’s unity and creative power and connection with man, by "the inspiration of the Holy Ghost," he imparts to his contemporaries through the vehicle of an account of creation they could all understand. It is not in his knowledge of physical facts that he is elevated above his contemporaries, but in his knowledge of God’s connection with all physical facts. No doubt, on the other hand, his knowledge of God reacts upon the entire contents of his mind and saves him from presenting such accounts of creation as have been common among polytheists. He presents an account purified by his conception of what was worthy of the supreme God he worshipped. His idea of God has given dignity and simplicity to all he says about creation, and there is an elevation and majesty about the whole conception, which we recognise as the reflex of his conception of God.
Here then instead of anything to discompose us or to excite unbelief, we recognise one great law or principle on which God proceeds in making Himself known to men. This has been called the Law of Accommodation. It is the law which requires that the condition and capacity of those to whom the revelation is made must be considered. If you wish to instruct a child, you must speak in language the child can understand. If you wish to elevate a savage, you must do it by degrees, accommodating yourself to his condition, and winking at much ignorance while you instil elementary knowledge. You must found all you teach on what is already understood by your pupil, and through that you must convey further knowledge and train his faculties to higher capacity. So was it with God’s revelation. The Jews were children who had to be trained with what Paul somewhat contemptuously calls "weak and beggarly elements," the A B C of morals and religion. Not even in morals could the absolute truth be enforced. Accommodation had to be practised even here. Polygamy was allowed as a concession to their immature stage of development: and practices in war and in domestic law were permitted or enjoined which were inconsistent with absolute morality. Indeed the whole Jewish system was an adaptation to an immature state. The dwelling of God in the Temple as a man in his house, the propitiating of God with sacrifice as of an Eastern king with gifts; this was a teaching by picture, a teaching which had as much resemblance to the truth and as much mixture of truth as they were able then to receive. No doubt this teaching did actually mislead them in some of their ideas; but it kept them on the whole in a right attitude toward God, and prepared them for growing up to a fuller discernment of the truth.
Much more was this law observed in regard to such matters as are dealt with in these chapters. It was impossible that in their ignorance of the rudiments of scientific knowledge, the early Hebrews should understand an absolutely accurate account of how the world came into being; and if they could have understood it, it would have been useless, dissevered as it must have been from the steps of knowledge by which men have since arrived at it. Children ask us questions in answer to which we do not tell them the exact full truth, because we know they cannot possibly understand it. All that we can do is to give them some provisional answer which conveys to them some information they can understand, and which keeps them in a right state of mind, although this information often seems absurd enough when compared with the actual facts and truth of the matter. And if some solemn pedant accused us of supplying the child with false information, we would simply tell him he knew nothing about children. Accurate information on these matters will infallibly come to the child when he grows up; what is wanted meanwhile is to give him information which will help to form his conduct without gravely misleading him as to facts. Similarly, if any one tells me he cannot accept these chapters as inspired by God, because they do not convey scientifically accurate information regarding this earth, I can only say that he has yet to learn the first principles of revelation, and that he misunderstands the conditions on which all instruction must be given.
My belief then is, that in these chapters we have the ideas regarding the origin of the world and of man which were naturally attainable in the country where they were first composed, but with those important modifications which a monotheistic belief necessarily suggested. So far as merely physical knowledge went, there is probably little here that was new to the contemporaries of the writer; but this already familiar knowledge was used by him as the vehicle for conveying his faith in the unity, love, and wisdom of God the creator. He laid a firm foundation for the history of God’s relation to man. This was his object, and this he accomplished. The Bible is the book to which we turn for information regarding the history of God’s revelation of Himself, and of His will towards men; and in these chapters we have the suitable introduction to this history. No changes in our knowledge of physical truth can at all affect the teaching of these chapters. What they teach regarding the relation of man to God is independent of the physical details in which this teaching is embodied, and can as easily be attached to the most modern statement of the physical origin of the world and of man.
What then are the truths taught us in these chapters? The first is that there has been a creation, that things now existing have not just grown of themselves, but have been called into being by a presiding intelligence and an originating will. No attempt to account for the existence of the world in any other way has been successful. A great deal has in this generation been added to our knowledge of the efficiency of material causes to produce what we see around us; but when we ask what gives harmony to these material causes, and what guides them to the production of certain ends, and what originally produced them, the answer must still be, not matter but intelligence and purpose. The best informed and most penetrating minds of our time affirm this. John Stuart Mill says: "It must be allowed that in the present state of our knowledge the adaptations in nature afford a large balance of probability in favor of creation by intelligence." Professor Tyndall adds his testimony and says: "I have noticed during years of self-observation that it is not in hours of clearness and vigor that [the doctrine of material atheism] commends itself to my mind-that in the hours of stronger and healthier thought it ever dissolves and disappears, as offering no solution of the mystery in which we dwell and of which we form a part."
There is indeed a prevalent suspicion, that in presence of the discoveries made by evolutionists the argument from design is no longer tenable. Evolution shows us that the correspondence of the structure of animals, with their modes of life, has been generated by the nature of the case; and it is concluded that a blind mechanical necessity and not an intelligent design rules all. But the discovery of the process by which the presently existing living forms have been evolved, and the perception that this process is governed by laws which have always been operating, do not make intelligence and design at all less necessary, but rather more so. As Professor Huxley himself says: "The teleological and mechanical views of nature are not necessarily exclusive. The teleologist can always defy the evolutionist to disprove that the primordial molecular arrangement was not intended to evolve the phenomena of the universe." Evolution, in short, by disclosing to us the marvellous power and accuracy of natural law, compels us more emphatically than ever to refer all law to a supreme, originating intelligence.
This then is the first lesson of the Bible; that at the root and origin of all this vast material universe, before whose laws we are crushed as the moth, there abides a living conscious Spirit, who wills and knows and fashions all things. The belief of this changes for us the whole face of nature, and instead of a chill, impersonal world of forces to which no appeal can be made, and in which matter is supreme, gives us the home of a Father. If you are yourself but a particle of a huge and unconscious universe-a particle which, like a flake of foam, or a drop of rain, or a gnat, or a beetle, lasts its brief space and then yields up its substance to be moulded into some new creature; if there is no power that understands you and sympathises with you and makes provision for your instincts, your aspirations, your capabilities; if man is himself the highest intelligence, and if all things are the purposeless result of physical forces; if, in short, there is no God, no consciousness at the beginning as at the end of all things, then nothing can be more melancholy than our position. Our higher desires which seem to separate us so immeasurably from the brutes, we have, only that they may be cut down by the keen edge of time, and wither in barren disappointment; our reason we have, only to enable us to see and measure the brevity of our span, and so live our little day, not joyously as the unforeseeing beasts, but shadowed by the hastening gloom of anticipated, inevitable, and everlasting night; our faculty for worshipping and for striving to serve and to resemble the perfect living One, that faculty which seems to be the thing of greatest promise and of finest quality in us, and to which is certainly due the largest part of what is admirable and profitable in human history, is the most mocking and foolishest of all our parts. But, God be thanked, He has revealed himself to us; has given us in the harmonious and progressive movement of all around us, sufficient indication that, even in the material world, intelligence and purpose reign; an indication which becomes immensely clearer as we pass into the world of man; and which, in presence of the person and life of Christ, attains the brightness of a conviction which illuminates all besides.
The other great truth which this writer teaches is, that man was the chief work of God, for whose sake all else was brought into being. The work of creation was not finished till he appeared: all else was preparatory to this final product. That man is the crown and lord of this earth is obvious. Man instinctively assumes that all else has been made for him, and freely acts upon this assumption. But when our eyes are lifted from this little ball on which we are set and to which we are confined, and when we scan such other parts of the universe as are within our ken, a keen sense of littleness oppresses us; our earth is after all so minute and apparently inconsiderable a point, when compared with the vast suns and planets that stretch system on system into illimitable space. When we read even the rudiments of what astronomers have discovered regarding the inconceivable vastness of the universe, the huge dimensions of the heavenly bodies, and the grand scale on which everything is framed, we find rising to our lips, and with tenfold reason, the words of David: "When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers: the moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained; what is man that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou visitest him?" Is it conceivable that on this scarcely discernible speck in the vastness of the universe, should be played out the chiefest act in the history of God? Is it credible that He whose care it is to uphold this illimitable universe, should be free to think of the wants and woes of the insignificant creatures who quickly spend their little lives in this inconsiderable earth?
But reason seems all on the side of Genesis. God must not be considered as sitting apart in a remote position of general superintendence, but as present with all that is. And to Him who maintains these systems in their respective relations and orbits, it can be no burden to relieve the needs of individuals. To think of ourselves as too insignificant to be attended to is to derogate from God’s true majesty and to misunderstand His relation to the world. But it is also to misapprehend the real value of spirit as compared with matter. Man is dear to God because he is like Him. Vast and glorious as it is, the sun cannot think God’s thoughts; can fulfil but cannot intelligently sympathise with God’s purpose. Man, alone among God’s works, can enter into and approve of God’s purpose in the world and can intelligently fulfil it. Without man the whole material universe would have been dark and unintelligible, mechanical and apparently without any sufficient purpose. Matter, however fearfully and wonderfully wrought, is but the platform and material in which spirit, intelligence, and will may fulfil themselves and find development. Man is incommensurable with the rest of the universe. He is of a different kind and by his moral nature is more akin to God than to His works.
Here the beginning and the end of God’s revelation join hands and throw light on one another. The nature of man was that in which God was at last to give His crowning revelation, and for that no preparation could seem extravagant. Fascinating and full of marvel as is the history of the past which science discloses to us; full as these slow-moving millions of years are in evidences of the exhaustless wealth of nature, and mysterious as the delay appears, all that expenditure of resources is eclipsed and all the delay justified when the whole work is crowned by the Incarnation, for in it we see that all that slow process was the preparation of a nature in which God could manifest Himself as a Person to persons. This is seen to be an end worthy of all that is contained in the physical history of the world: this gives completeness to the whole and makes it a unity. No higher, other end need be sought, none could be conceived. It is this which seems worthy of those tremendous and subtle forces which have been set at work in the physical world, this which justifies the long lapse of ages filled with wonders unobserved, and teeming with ever new life, this above all which justifies these latter ages in which all physical marvels have been outdone by the tragical history of man upon earth. Remove the Incarnation and all remains dark, purposeless, unintelligible: grant the Incarnation, believe that in Jesus Christ the Supreme manifested Himself personally, and light is shed upon all that has been and is.
Light is shed on the individual life. Are you living as if you were the product of blind mechanical laws, and as if there were no object worthy of your life and of all the force you can throw into your life? Consider the Incarnation of the Creator, and ask yourself if sufficient object is not given to you in His call that you be conformed to His image and become the intelligent executor of His purposes? Is life not worth having even on these terms? The man that can still sit down and bemoan himself as if there were no meaning in existence, or lounge languidly through life as if there were no zest or urgency in living, or try to satisfy himself with fleshly comforts, has surely need to turn to the opening page of Revelation and learn that God saw sufficient object in the life of man, enough to compensate for millions of ages of preparation. If it is possible that you should share in the character and destiny of Christ, can a healthy ambition crave anything more or higher? If the future is to be as momentous in results as the past has certainly been filled with preparation, have you no caring to share in these results? Believe that there is a purpose in things; that in Christ, the revelation of God, you can see what. that purpose is, and that by wholly uniting yourself to Him and allowing yourself to be penetrated by His Spirit you can participate with Him in the working out of that purpose.
He rested on the seventh day
The Divine Sabbath:
THE DIVINE COMPLETION OF HIS CREATIVE WORK. No further creations.
II. THE DIVINE CONTEMPLATION OF HIS CREATIVE WORK. Everything complete. Everything in subordination. Everything ready for the higher and more glorious exercise of the Divine activity in providence and grace. All prepared for the kingdom of probation, by which the last created of the world was to be tried, disciplined, and perfected. We may learn here--
1. Evil has no natural place in the universe.
2. Matter is not necessarily hostile to God. The Bible, in this picture of Divine contemplation, cuts away the ground from certain forms of false religion and philosophy. Divine life is not the destruction of matter, nor the rising out of the region of the sensuous; but so restoring the harmony, that God may again look upon the world, and say it is “very good.”
3. The present condition of things, so changed from that which God first looked upon, must be the result of some catastrophe.
III. THE DIVINE REST AFTER HIS CREATIVE WORK. The rest began when the work was done. The contemplation was a part of the Sabbatic blessedness. The Sabbath:
1. It was a season of rest. It does not imply that there was weariness, but cessation from creative activity.
2. The rest was blessed by God. As He saw His work good, so He saw His rest good.
3. There was an appointment of a similar blessed rest for His creatures. “He sanctified the seventh day.” It is not for us to discuss the relations of God to labour and repose. The fact may be beyond our comprehension. It has lessons for us:
1. There is a place and time for rest.
2. The condition on which rest may be claimed is that men work.
3. This rest should be happy. Much of the modern idea of a Sabbath is not that which God would say was blessed. The Sabbath is not a time of gloom.
4. This rest should be religious.
5. This rest is unlimited to any particular portion of the race. (Homilist.)
An allegory lies in this history. Every week has its Sabbath, and every Sabbath is to be a parenthesis between two weeks’ work. From the beginning of the world, a seventh of time was set apart for rest. The rest of the Sabbath must be
It must be refreshment to body, mind, and soul; and it must not infringe upon the rest of others. The rest of a holy peace must be combined with the loving energies of an active body and an earnest mind. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
The original Sabbath
I. THAT THE WORK OF CREATION WAS COMPLETED ON THE SIXTH DAY. God could have done His creative work in a moment. Why, then, did He take six days?
II. THAT THE SEVENTH DAY WAS THE FIRST SABBATH.
1. A memorial of past labour.
2. A pillar of testimony to God as Creator.
3. A proclamation of rest.
4. A type of coming rest. (H. Bonar.)
The Sabbath sanctified
I. THE FACT STATED. God blessed, etc.
II. THE REASON ASSIGNED. He rested, etc.
III. THE END IN VIEW. (W. Burrows, M. A.)
The Christian Sabbath
Paradise, with its calm, its purity, and its beauty, is gone; but the Sabbath has not with Paradise passed away. It has accompanied man in his sorrows, as it accompanied him in his joys.
I. THE CONSECRATION OF THE SABBATH. Fenced off by God as His own peculiar property. “Holiness to the Lord” is written upon it by the finger of our Creator. And the consecration of the Sabbath must be for such purposes as these.
1. Primarily and preeminently, for the consideration of the wondrous work of creation; that man, the intelligent creature, may behold, in the glorious workmanship of God, traces of the Divine power, and wisdom, and love, and that he may render to his Creator the homage that is due to Him.
2. It was further consecrated for services fitted to increase the holiness of man while he remained in innocency, and to restore fallen man to the holiness which he had lost. It was intended, therefore, for man not less than for God.
II. THE PERPETUITY OF THE SABBATH. Instituted long before Judaism, long before Abraham’s time even; therefore, of perpetual obligation. God has appointed a holy rest for His people in every age, and though the day may be changed, yet the institution remains the same.
III. THE BLESSINGS OF THE SABBATH.
1. God designed it as a blessing to man.
2. God annexed a special blessing to the day. (H. Stowell, M. A.)
That the Sabbath was originally a Divine institution, nobody can doubt. It originated with God: and now God has either abrogated the Sabbath, or He has not. If God has not abrogated the Sabbath, the matter is quite clear: it comes commended to us with all that Divine authority itself can rest upon. But if God has abrogated the Sabbath, I ask, who is the man that would dare to reinstitute it?
I. THE OBLIGATION OF THE SABBATH. First, I say that the fourth commandment is absolutely obligatory on Christian men. If not, one or other of these alternatives must be adopted: either the whole of the ten commandments are abrogated and abolished, or the fourth is an exception out of the ten. There is no escape from one or other of these alternatives. But now suppose for a moment, for argument’s sake, you were to allow that the fourth commandment, as far as it is found in the Mosaic economy, is abrogated. What then? Is the law of the Sabbath destroyed? Now, here is the proper argument for the Sabbath. “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made.” What has that to do with the Mosaic economy?
Why, here is the institution of the Sabbath more than two thousand years before the Mosaic economy is introduced! Suppose you allow all the Mosaic law to be abrogated, here stands the original institution. And if any man says, “But that refers to Eden,” I grant it, Was it abolished when our first parents were cast out of Eden? Then I will give you a proof for once to the contrary, in the sixteenth chapter of Exodus, the twenty-third and twenty-ninth verses. Listen to these words. “And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord; bake that which ye will bake,” and so forth. Again, in the twenty-ninth verse: “See, for that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath.” This is the sixteenth chapter of Exodus. How did they come to have the Sabbath day here? You know the law was not given till some considerable time after this: yet here you have the observance of the Sabbath, not based on the tea commandments at all--it is before they are uttered: here you have God recognizing the same thing. But now notice another remarkable fact. Why does the fourth commandment begin with the word, “Remember”? There is not another of the commandments that begins with the word “Remember.” They are all positive institutions at that very time. But here is the fourth commandment notably commencing with the word “Remember.” Why? Because it was an original institution, and the word points back to that. Another very remarkable fact in regard to the institution of the Sabbath, so far as it is connected With the Mosaic economy, is, that God institutes it in connection with the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. In the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy, at the fourteenth verse, it is said--“The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God,” and so on. Now observe. “Remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore”--I beseech you to notice this--“therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day.” You observe, that the reason why God commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath there is because they were brought out of the land of Egypt; but when God gave the fourth commandment in connection with the ten from Sinai, evidently intending it to have a general application, He makes no mention of this particular deliverance, but merely states the reason we find in the second chapter of Genesis--because God had rested Himself on the seventh day. So that if we admit, as I will do, that there was a peculiarity in the reason for the institution of the Sabbath in connection with the Israelites, yet God marks a distinction between that peculiarity and the general application in the passages I have referred to: giving as the peculiarity in their case the deliverance from Egypt, but in the other case giving as a reason that He Himself rested from His work, that the institution might be known to be applicable to all men. One further proof let us for a moment notice. The object of the Sabbath--let us see what that involves. There is a two-fold object alluded to in my text--with reference to God, and with reference to man. First, with reference to God. God rested on the seventh day, in commemoration of the finishing of His work. Now, whatever that may involve, I suppose it will be admitted that it is applicable to all men, and that it does not apply to the Jews or to one age only. If God thought fit to commemorate the fact of His resting from His labours by setting apart one day in seven, you and I are as much concerned in it as the Israelite was. But this will be still further enforced, when we come to consider the reason for which the Sabbath was instituted with reference to man. This was a two-fold reason. It was in order to his physical rest, and in order to his spiritual profit; the one subservient to the other. His physical rest: is not that equally necessary at all times? What gave rise to this reason for the institution of the Sabbath? On what ground was it necessary that there should be one day in seven set apart? I tell you: the law of rest was based on the law of labour. That was true in Eden. In Eden man was to till the ground; and even in Eden, in his unfallen state, there was a day of rest appointed. If that was true in man’s perfect state, before his physical ability became deteriorated and broken down through sin, as it has been, how much more is it necessary in his fallen state! Again, let me ask this: If it was needful to Israel that they should have a day of rest, on the ground of the physical system being liable to exhaustion, and on the ground of the law of labour not being remitted, will any man pretend to argue that the law of rest shall be abolished and abrogated while the law of labour still remains? Or again: look at the spiritual purpose of the Sabbath. It is instituted in order to give man an opportunity--by resting from labour and the ordinary transactions of secular concerns, to have an opportunity of cultivating a holy and heavenly taste, and becoming fit for heaven. Now, I ask this question: Do your secular avocations, the cares and anxieties with which you are conversant every day, produce the same general results that they did in Israel’s days, or do they not? Do you find, or do you not find, when you go about your ordinary business six days in the week, that you have immense difficulty to keep your hearts and affections separated from these things, and give them to God? Do you find that you could afford to be without one day in the week, on which to meet in God’s house, and have an opportunity of reading your Bible and meditating at home, feeling it to be so easy in your worldly vocation to separate your hearts for communion with Him? It is monstrous to suppose such a thing. But again. That the Sabbath is an eternal Sabbath is clear from this: that in the Hebrews the apostle says, “There remaineth a rest.” I need not tell you that the word there translated “rest” is “Sabbath”--“There remaineth a rest,” a Sabbath “for the people of God.” “A Sabbath!” What is the present Sabbath? What was the original Sabbath? Without controversy, a type of the coming Sabbath. “There remaineth a Sabbath.” And yet God gave a Sabbath from the beginning! The Sabbath God gave was of course a type of the eternal Sabbath. Now, do you conceive that Israel should enjoy the type of the heavenly Sabbath, and yet that you and I, who live so much nearer to the time of the end, and are supposed to be, by virtue of the pouring out of the Holy Ghost and a knowledge of Christ, so much more holy in heart, are not to enjoy that type? But a type is in force till it is fulfilled. When will that type be done away? Never, unquestionably, till it resolves itself into the eternal Sabbath.
II. THE MODE OF OBSERVANCE OF THE SABBATH. If God has given us the Sabbath, and we are to keep it on the Lord’s day, every right-minded man will ask, How are we to keep it? Now, it is very remarkable and important, that in the passages where God teaches us how the Sabbath day is to be kept, He deals with the subject as a general subject. It is not spoken of in the passages I will refer to in reference to any peculiarities connected with Judaism; but there are such declarations and instructions as would be applicable to all men, and all Christian men, to the end of time. There is the fourth commandment and the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah. The fourth commandment we know. Here is the passage I quote from the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah: at the thirteenth verse--“If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.” If you take the fourth commandment in connection with that verse, you will find that you have instruction as to the spiritual and physical obligation of the Lord’s day. The fourth commandment instructs us in regard to our rest from all labour; this passage instructs us in regard to the object for which that physical rest is to be enjoyed, as subservient to our spiritual advantage. (C. Molyneux, M. A.)
The blessed day
I. THE OBLIGATION OF THE SABBATH.
1. The Sabbath was made for man in Paradise.
2. The Sabbath was revived in the wilderness.
3. The Sabbath was established by an express commandment.
4. The Sabbath was confirmed by the practice of our Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles. The change of day, from the seventh to the first of the week, makes no alteration in the proportion of our time which God has “sanctified” and “blessed.”
5. The Sabbath has been observed by the Church of Christ in general.
II. THE ADVANTAGES OF THE SABBATH. A “blessed” day.
1. Its temporal advantages.
2. Its spiritual advantages.
Institution and end of the Sabbath
I. WHO WAS IT INSTITUTED THE SABBATH? God. It sets forth the Divine complacency--how He looked back on the work He had finished, and how He was refreshed with the contemplation of it. And this gives us the true idea of the first Sabbath, when the Lord rested from His work; He set it apart, that His creatures might rest also, that they might be taken from the work to the worker, from the gift to the Giver, from the creation to the Creator.
II. THE CONTINUATION OF THE INSTITUTION (Exodus 20:1-26). Though the appointing one day out of seven was a moral command, yet it was also positive: it was arranged in the garden of Eden before Satan tempted man to fall. Therefore it had its truth, not in Mount Sinai, not because Moses gave it, but from the living God Himself. And there it stands at an amazing distance from all ceremonies and all shadows. It sets forth a great truth, I allow--our rest in Jesus: but the setting apart a day of rest was no shadow; it was God’s claim on His people. “Your bodies are Mine, your souls are Mine, and you shall give what you owe to Me.”
III. THE GREAT END AND OBJECT OF THE SABBATH (Hebrews 4:11). Just as the Creator did rest from His work, and did command His creatures to rest as He rested, giving themselves up to the contemplation of Himself: so in the Christian Sabbath we are led by Eternal Spirit to seek our rest, and to find our rest, in the Lord Jesus Christ.
IV. WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THAT OBEDIENCE WHICH OUGHT TO BE GIVEN TO IT BY CHRISTIANS? Let him beware of Jewish legality, of the spirit of bondage--of that principle which, while it seemeth as if it honoured God in strictness, strains at a gnat and swallows a camel. You and I, to obey one single principle aright, must have a right principle. It is in vain the command comes to us: it can work on us by authority and by terror: but we must have a higher principle to influence the inner man. The nature of the obedience is at once unfolded in the nature of the institution. Whatever has a tendency to promote my entering into that rest, to promote my spiritual acquaintance with that rest, enters of necessity into the consideration of the Christian Sabbath. Whatever has a tendency to hinder it, whatever has a tendency to prevent it, whatever has a tendency to chain me down to this earth, is to be avoided by a Christian man. (J. H.Evans, M. A.)
Genesis of the Sabbath
I. EXPLANATION OF THE PASSAGE.
1. Cessation of the creative process.
2. The Creator’s resting.
3. Sanctification of the Sabbath day.
II. CHRIST’S DOCTRINE OF THE SABBATH.
1. Man himself is the basis of the Sabbath.
A day of conscious, formal, stately acknowledgment of the Divine supremacy. A day on which to dismiss worldly cares, and look through unobstructed vistas into the opening heavens. An English gentleman was once inspecting a house in Newcastle, with a view of buying it. The landlord, after having shown him the premises, took him to an upper window, and remarked: “You can see Durham Cathedral from this window on Sundays.” “How is this?” asked the visitor. “Because on Sundays there is no smoke from the factory chimneys.” Ah, man must have a day in which he can retire to some solitude, where his spirit--
“With her best nurse, Contemplation,
May plume her feathers, and let grow her wings,
That in the various bustle of resort
Were all too ruffled, and sometimes impaired.”
2. Man greater than the Sabbath. Man, as God’s son and image and representative, is the end, and the Sabbath, like every other “ordinance,” is a means. An immortal being, outliving institutions, economies, aeons--capable of carrying a heaven within him--God’s own image and son: man is more sacred than ordinances. Jesus Christ did not die for ordinances: Jesus Christ died for man. The Sabbath is sacred, not in itself, but because man is sacred. Hence the Sabbath is his servant--not his master. He is the Lord of the Sabbath. And in accordance with this principle Jesus Christ Himself ever acted.
3. The true method of keeping the Sabbath. Being made for man, the Sabbath must be used religiously: for the capacity for religion is man’s chief definition. The Sabbath must be kept in homage of God, in the study of His Word and character and will, in the spirit of worship, private and public. But full unfolding of man’s spiritual nature is possible only in the sphere of edification, or society building. The Sabbath summons man to conjugate life in a new mood and tense; but still in the active voice. And here the Son of Man is our Teacher and blessed Model. How many of His healings and works of mercy were wrought on the Sabbath day! And what is man’s office in this fallen, sorrowful world, but a ministry of healing? And healing, or edification, is the highest form of worship. Nothing can take the place of it.
III. THE CHANCE FROM SATURDAY TO SUNDAY. Here is a venerable, sacred institution--hallowed by the Creator’s own example in Eden, solemnly enjoined amid the thunders of Sinai, distinctly set apart as one of the chief signs that Israel was God’s chosen, covenanted people, majestically buttressed by loftiest promises in case of observance, and by direst threats in case of non-observance, freighted with the solemn weight of fifteen centuries of sacred associations and scrupulous observance--suddenly falling into disuse, and presently supplanted by another day, which to this year of grace has held its own amid the throes of eighteen centuries. How, then, will you account for this stupendous revolution? It is a fair question for the philosophical historian to ask. And the philosophical historian knows the answer. Jesus the Nazarene had been crucified. All through the seventh day or Hebrew Sabbath He had lain in Joseph’s tomb. In that tomb, amid solitude and darkness and grave-clothes, He had grappled in mortal duel with the king of death, and had thrown him, and shivered his sceptre. At the close of that awful Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1), He had risen triumphant from the dead. And by and in the very fact of that triumphant rising, He had henceforth and for evermore emblazoned the first day of the week as His own royal, supernal day, even time’s first, true Sabbath.
IV. JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF IS OUR SABBATH, alike its origin, its meaning, and its end. In fact the final cause of the Sabbath is to sabbatize each day and make all life sacramental. And Jesus Christ being our true Sabbath, Jesus Christ is also our true rest--even the spirit’s everlasting Eden. (G. D.Boardman.)
Need of the Sabbath
Man needs the Sabbath--i.e., one day of rest after six days of toil--for his secular nature, alike bodily and mental. The testimony of physicians, physiologists, political economists, managers of industrial establishments, etc., is emphatic on this point. Let me cite some instances. Dr. John William Draper, the eminent physicist and author, writes as follows: “Out of the numberless blessings conferred on our race by the Church, the physiologist may be permitted to select one for remark, which, in an eminent manner, has conduced to our physical and moral well-being. It is the institution of the Sabbath. No man can for any length of time pursue one avocation or one train of thought without mental, and therefore bodily, injury--nay, without insanity. The constitution of the brain is such that it must have its time of repose. Periodicity is stamped upon it. Nor is it enough that it is awake and in action by day, and in the silence of night obtains rest and repair; that same periodicity, which belongs to it as a whole, belongs to all its constituent parts. One portion of it cannot be called into incessant activity without the risk of injury. Its different regions, devoted to different functions, must have their separate times of rest. The excitement of one part must be coincident with a pause in the action of another. It is not possible for mental equilibrium to be maintained with one idea, or one monotonous mode of life . . . Thus a kind providence so overrules events that it matters not in what station we may be, wealthy or poor, intellectual or lowly, a refuge is always at hand; and the mind, worn out with one thing, turns to another, and its physical excitement is followed by physical repose. Lord Macaulay, in his speech before the House of Commons on the Ten Hours’ Bill, spoke thus: “The natural difference between Campania and Spitzbergen is trifling when compared with the difference between a country inhabited by men full of mental and bodily vigour, and a country inhabited by men sunk in bodily and mental decrepitude. Therefore it is we are not poorer, but richer, because we have, through many ages, rested from our labours one day in seven. That day is not lost. While industry is suspended, while the plough lies in the furrow, while the Exchange is silent, while no smoke ascends from the factory, a process is going on quite as important to the wealth of nations as any process which is performed on more busy days. Man, the machine of machines the machine compared with which all the contrivances of the Watts and the Arkwrights are worthless--is repairing and winding up, so that he returns to his labours on the Monday with clearer intellect, with livelier spirits, with renewed corporeal vigour.” (G. D. Boardman.)
I. THE PRIMAL SABBATH. God’s Sabbath. The end of the mysterious periods of God’s creative operations, is the beginning of a new age in which all creation is intended to glorify God and be happy.
II. THE PERIODICAL SABBATH. Made for man. A sign of God’s care for man; and a memorial of the holy rest which man should seek to obtain.
III. THE PERFECT SABBATH. The future rest in heaven. Unending joy and refreshment. Perfectly holy, perfectly happy; all things “very good.” (W. S. Smith, B. D.)
The Sabbath is for rest
A week filled up with selfishness, and the Sabbath stuffed full of religious exercises, will make a good Pharisee but a poor Christian. There are many persons who think Sunday is a sponge with which to wipe out the sins of the week. Now, God’s altar stands from Sunday to Sunday, and the seventh day is no more for religion than any other. It is for rest. The whole seven are for religion, and one of them for rest. (H. W. Beecher.)
The excellency of the Sabbath
What the fire is amongst the elements, the eagle among the fowls, the whale among the fishes, the lion amongst the beasts, gold among the metals, and wheat amongst other grain, the same is the Lord’s day above other days of the week, differing as much from the rest as doth that wax to which a king’s great seal is put from ordinary wax, or that silver upon which the king’s arms and image are stamped from silver unrefined, or in bullion; it is a day, the most holy festival in relation to the initiation of the world and man’s regeneration, the queen and princess of days, a royal day, a day that shines amongst other days as doth the dominical letter, clad in scarlet, among the other letters in the calendar; or, as the sun imparts light to all the other stars, so doth this day, bearing the name of Sunday, afford both light and life to all the other days of the week. (J. Spencer.)
The first Sabbath
I. SABBATH REST. Sabbath rest is not merely a rest from sin, though it includes that: we are not merely required to lay aside things that are sinful to keep this Sabbath, for God rested, and He could do only good. It is not only a rest from labour, though it includes it: for God rested, and He knew no labour--commanding, and it was done. It is a rest from work. God rested from all His work. Even then those things which are lawful and pleasant work on weekdays, causing no labour and involving no sin, are to be put aside on the Sabbath, that we may rest unto God. This rest is a rest from care. You well know, that with all your desire to let the morrow take thought for the things of itself, the necessity of providing for the creature’s wants will give a care and anxiety to your mind. Well, on the Sabbath you are privileged to put this all away, and to let everything remain in abeyance, leaving all in Christ’s hands, while you enjoy present rest in Him. This rest is, or ought to be, a rest of body and mind, as well as of soul. Lastly, above all, this rest is a rest in the Lord. It is an everlasting satisfaction in what He has done for you; and what He means to do with you. It is to go in with David to sit before the Lord; it is to lie down in green pastures, by the waters of comfort; it is to hide in the secret places of the stairs; it is to enter that chariot whose pillars are of silver, and whose bottom is of gold, and whose curtains are of purple, and which is paved with love for the daughters of Jerusalem; it is to drink that new wine which goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.
II. SABBATH OCCUPATION. It may seem a strange transition to pass from the thought of Sabbath rest to that of Sabbath occupation; but the rest of saints is not an idle rest, it is not a rest which excludes the idea of employment or of service. Even in the description of the eternal and heavenly Jerusalem we have the words, “His servants shall serve Him,” as well as, “They shall see His face”; and how much more then shall the Sabbath of earth be spent in doing the will of God! Sabbath rest is found in beholding the face of God. Sabbath occupation is found in serving Him. All Sabbath occupation is lawful which does not break in upon and disturb Sabbath rest. If the employment in which we engage does not hinder, but rather promotes our enjoyment of that spirit rest which I have already spoken of, then may we be sure we are right in pursuing it.
1. First, then, as a lawful Sabbath occupation I would put self-study, for there is something in the quiet and leisure of the day of rest which seems peculiarly to favour it. God hath said, “Commune with your own heart, and in your chamber, and be still”; and he who is in the Spirit on the Lord’s day will find it good and right so to do.
2. Next in order as a Sabbath occupation I would mention Bible study. I do not by that expression mean Bible reading, but that earnest, patient investigation of the Divine Word which requires time, and thought, and prayer.
3. As another Sabbath occupation I would name creation study. God has in so wonderful a manner linked together the visible and the invisible, the tangible with the things that cannot be touched, that we cannot go forth in our glorious world without seeing traced on almost every object the hieroglyphics which tell of the higher mysteries of an inner life. Those who are instructed in the emblematic glory of the things which are can walk with Christ amidst creation’s beauties, and understand His parables. To them He speaketh still of the sower and the seed; the tares and the wheat; the lilies of the field, in their more than royal glory: and many a precious lesson is taught them, as they study the manner in which God is daily bringing about those results which preserve the frame of nature in its order and beauty.
4. I would next suggest as a fitting occupation for the Lord’s day the ministration of good.
5. As another Sabbath occupation, I would mention, writing on sacred subjects: it may be original composition or otherwise.
6. Another precious Sabbath occupation will be found in Christian converse.
7. Christian correspondence.
8. Sacred music. Blessed, beautiful gift! which God has preserved to this disordered and disruptured world--the harmony of sound. David, in Scripture times, and Luther in more modern days, are instances of those who have appreciated its powers. There is something peculiarly soothing and healing (if I may use the latter word) in the effect of the higher cast of music upon the mind; it will sometimes bring tears to eyes whose fount has long been dried. And on the Sabbath day I know no more blessed relief to the mind, when it has been kept in a high state of tension for, many hours engaged in earnest thought and study, than that which is afforded by, the strains of sacred song.
III. SABBATH WORSHIP. In spirit and in truth we must worship that God, who is a Spirit, with our whole understanding, and soul, and strength; with our lamps burning and our armour bright, as a peculiar people, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood we must do Him service. (The Protoplast.)
A world without a Sabbath
A world without a Sabbath would be like a man without a smile, like a summer without flowers, and like a homestead without a garden. It is the joyous day of the whole week. (H. W. Beecher.)
The Sabbath not to be effaced
The original distinction, made by God Himself, and founded both upon His nature and ours, between working and resting, must be kept in mind; and we must not attempt to confound these, or suppose that, provided we try to glorify God in everything, it matters little whether we set the two different things distinctly before us; viz., the glory which we are to give Him in working and the glory which we are to give Him in resting. In trying to make every day a Sabbath we are doing what we can to efface this Divine distinction. And can it be effaced without sin, without injury to the soul, without harm both to the Church and to the world, both to Jew and Gentile? It cannot; for thus God does not get the glory which He desires. He does not get the separate glories of which we have been speaking, but a mere human compound of both--vague, indefinite, diluted--something that neither glorifies Him nor benefits His saints, nor bears witness to the world. Those who deny the authority of the Sabbath now must undertake to prove the following things:--
1. That the Decalogue or Law is no longer binding; or at least that one out of the ten commandments is no longer binding.
2. That Christ came to diminish our store of blessings during the present dispensation; that He has narrowed instead of enlarged our privileges.
3. If they shrink from this, then they must maintain that the Sabbath is not a blessing; that it is an unwholesome, unnatural, intolerable restraint; a weariness, a bondage, a curse.
4. That the Sabbath was a Jewish institution exclusively, and therefore fell when Judaism fell. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
The Divine rest
There are some who can see in this description nothing higher than the ignoble image of a weary Creator reposing after His fatigues; as if the God of this chapter were like the Olympian deities, or the Baal whose slumbers provoked the mockery of the Tishbite. Nor is the “rest” of God intended to suggest that the Creator has ceased to create; that He has constructed the world as a self-acting machine, and now commits it to its course. A far nobler thought, a religious and not a scientific conception underlies the image.
1. It marks a stage in the process of creation. The earth is rendered habitable. Every portion of the creation has been pronounced good in itself; now the whole is regarded by God with satisfaction. “God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.” God “rested from all His work which He had made.”
2. The image of God’s rest emphasizes the relation of man to the terrestrial creation. We rest when our purpose is complete. The plan of God was wrought out when man was formed.
3. There is a rest for the affections as well as for the purposes; a repose of the heart as well as of the planning intellect and the active will. A father who expects his children home, and prepares for their reception, does not rest until he sees them; in his welcome of them there is repose. It is not that he wilt have nothing more to do, that he abates his labour for them or relaxes his care. His heart is full of tranquillity; the excitement of preparation has given way to peace.
4. And yet once more--consider to what a history this creation legend is the introduction. The narrative only pauses a moment; and then begins a story of sin and chastisement, of strife and shame and struggle. It is the prologue of a long drama of passion, weariness, and woe. (A. Mackennal, D. D.)
Institution of Sabbath
I. THE DIRECT REASONS why we believe the Sabbath to have been instituted at the time when the sacred narrative begins. The transactions of the seventh day immediately follow those of the sixth, precisely as those of the sixth follow the fifth--the history is chronological, unbroken, complete. This is the reason each day’s work comes in order. These were the transactions of the seventh day, which come as directly in succession after the preceding as any of the other days. The plain literal common sense interpretation of the history of the Scripture is indispensable to faith. But in the present case we have yet further reasons. The distribution of the work of creation into its parts would be deprived of its object and end, if the institution of the Sabbath were expunged. For why this distribution but to mark to man the proportion of time allotted him for his usual labour, and the proportion to be assigned to religious exercises? Again, where is the example in Scripture of any instituted commemoration not beginning from the time of its appointment? One is ashamed to urge more arguments in such a case--but what meaning, I ask, had Moses in his reference to six days’ labour and a seventh day’s Sabbath, as matters familiarly known, at the time of the miraculous fall of manna before the giving of the law, if there had not been a preceding institution? Or what is intended by the citation of the very language of my text in the fourth commandment, if the reason there assigned had not really reposed on facts--“For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth.”
II. THE JUST INFERENCES to be drawn from them as to the glory and dignity of the Sabbath.
1. We learn from them, first, its essential necessity to man as man.
2. Consider, further, that it was the first command given by God to Adam, as soon as ever the work of creation was finished. Man never was without a Sabbath.
3. Observe, further, that this command was not merely made known to man, in some of those ways in which his Maker afterwards communicated His will, but it was placed, as it were, on the footing of creation itself. By the Almighty Hand all nature might have been called into being in an instant. The distribution of the work over six days, followed by the repose on the seventh, was to infix this grand principle in the mind of every human being, that after six days’ labour one day of religious rest should follow.
4. We learn also from this order of creation that man was made, not for constant and unrelieved employment or for earthly pursuits chiefly, but for labour with intervals of repose, and in subordination to the glory of his God; man was formed not for seven days’ toil, but for six--man was formed not for secular and terrestrial pursuits merely, but for the high purpose of honouring God, meditating on His works, and preparing for the enjoyment of Him forever.
III. Let us next show that THERE ARE TRACES OF THE OBSERVATION OF A WEEKLY REST DURING THE PATRIARCHAL AGES. The very first act of Divine worship after the Fall affords indications of a day of religion. Cain and Abel brought their offerings “in process of time,” as the common reading has it, but literally, and as it is in the margin, “at the end of the days.” Thus we have in the sacred narrative, the priest, altar, matter of sacrifice, motive, atonement made and accented, and appointed time--indications these entirely consistent with the supposition of a previous sabbatical institution, and indeed proceeding upon it--for that is the meaning of the expression, “at the end of the days.” But one division of days had been yet mentioned, and that was of the days of the week, the Sabbath being the last or seventh day--we may, therefore, reasonably suppose that holy season to be here termed “the end of the days.” Again, we read that “men,” in the days of Seth (two hundred years, perhaps, after Abel’s sacrifice), “began to call upon the name of the Lord,” or, “to call themselves by the name of the Lord”; and four hundred years later, that “Enoch walked with God,”--terms of large import, and which, when illustrated by the eleventh chapter of the Hebrews, where the faith of the patriarchs in the Divine order of creation is so extolled, are, to say the least, entirely consistent with the observation of a day of religious worship. We come to the flood. Sixteen centuries have elapsed since the institution of the weekly rest. And now we find the reckoning by weeks familiarly referred to as the ordinary division of time. The Lord said unto Noah, “Yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth.” And again, “It came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the food were upon the earth.” These passages occur in the seventh chapter. Nothing can be more certain than that the return of seven days brought something peculiar with it; and we judge it probable, from the institution of the Sabbath, that that peculiarity was the day of sacred rest. Accordingly after the flood, the tradition of that division of time spread over all the eastern world--Assyrians, Egyptians, Indians, Arabians, Persians, unite with the Israelites in retaining vestiges of it. In the earliest remains of the heathen writers, Hesiod, Homer, Callimachus--the sanctity of the seventh day is referred to as a matter of notoriety. Philo, the Jew, declares that there was no nation under heaven where the opinion had not reached. But we come to the history of Abraham. Here it is deserving notice, as we pass, that the rite of circumcision was to be performed after the lapse of seven days from the birth; but the commendation of Abraham’s example, “That he commanded his children and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment,” implies that there was a way prescribed by the Almighty, and certain observances in which consisted justice and judgment, amongst which the Sabbath was probably the chief. But in the more fall declaration afterwards made concerning him to Isaac; “That Abraham obeyed His voice, and kept His charge, His commandments, His statutes, and His laws”; the terms employed are so various as to be by no means naturally interpreted of the ordinances of circumcision and sacrifice only, but to include, as much as if it were named, the charge and law of the Sabbath. We come to Jacob; and few, I think, can doubt that when he uttered the devout exclamation, “This is none other than the house of God, this is the gate of heaven”; and then vowed that the “stone should be God’s house”--he alluded to what was customary with the pious patriarchs, the worship of God in a stated place, and on a stated time--the Sabbath; without which a house of God would be a term of little meaning; but with which it would indeed be the pledge and anticipation of heaven. Even Laban seems to have had the notion of a weekly division of time, “Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also.” But I will not dwell on more particulars. The numerous, the almost perpetual notices of places, of altars, of sacrifices, of the worship of God, of solemn titles given to particular spots, all confirm the supposition, which is the only reasonable one, that the sabbatical institution was not unknown to the patriarchs. We may notice the case of holy Job, as confirming this, who, remote as was the place of his abode, more than once reminds us of “a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord.”
IV. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE SABBATH WAS REVIVED AND RE-ESTABLISHED BEFORE THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE MOSAICAL ECONOMY, proves that it was a previous institution, which had never been entirely lost; and therefore confirms all we stated of its origin in Paradise and its continuance during the patriarchal ages.
1. Let us, then, first, in applying this part of our subject, observe, the extreme violence which is done to the Christian faith, when any important fact in the Scriptures, such as the institution of the Sabbath in Paradise, is attempted to be explained away by the fancy of man.
2. Yes, come with me before we close this discourse and let us adore and praise the Almighty Father of all for the distinct glories shed upon the day of religious repose. Come and praise Him for condescending to imprint its first enactment, and the reasons on which it is grounded, on the six days’ creative wonders. Come, glorify your God and Father. He bids you rest, but it is after His own example. He bids you labour, but it is after His pattern. Imitate the Supreme Architect. Work in the order in which He worked, cease when He was pleased to cease. Let the day of religion, after each six days’ toil, be to you a blessed and a sanctified season. Plead the promise attached to the Sabbath: it is blessed of God, it is sanctified of God, it is hallowed of God. Implore forgiveness of your past neglect. Let no Sabbath henceforth leave you without having sought the blessing promised and performed the duties to which it is dedicated. Let your devout meditation on the glories of creation swell the choir of your Maker’s praise. Join “the sons of God” in their joys and songs at the birth of the universe. (D. Wilson, M. A.)
The Lord’s day, or Christian Sabbath
1. Delight in the Lord’s day as a high privilege bestowed upon you: make it the matter of your holy joy.
2. Dispose of your earthly affairs wisely in the foregoing week, so that if possible you may not have the Lord’s day, which is a day of rest and worship, invaded and intrenched upon by the cares and business of this world.
3. Think of the promises which are made to these who with a religious care serve and worship God upon His appointed day.
4. Whatsoever spiritual advantages or improvements you obtain on God’s own day, take care that you do not lose them again amidst the labours or the pleasures of the following week.
5. Take notice what relish and satisfaction you find in the duties or services of the Lord’s day, and let that be a test whereby you may judge of the sanctification of your souls and your preparation for heaven.
6. Let every Lord’s day, every Christian Sabbath, lead your meditations, your faith, and hope onward to the eternal rest in heaven. (Isaac Watts, D. D.)
I. ITS ORIGIN. Days and nights, lunar months, and solar years, are natural divisions of time; and may be easily supposed or accounted for, by the diurnal revolution of the earth, the appearance of the moon, and the annual course of the sun; but weeks of seven days cannot have the shadow of a reason assigned for their observance, except on the ground of the primeval institution of the Sabbath on the seventh day of the creation, and banded down by tradition to all parts of the world.
II. ITS PERPETUITY.
1. It was enjoined upon Adam, as the federal head and common parent of all mankind, and not given to Abraham, as the father of the Jewish nation.
2. It was introduced and enforced in the decalogue as a moral precept, and not a mere ceremonial institution.
3. The same, and even stronger reasons, may be assigned for the perpetuity of the Sabbath, than those expressed as the design of its original appointment. There is the same God to adore; there are the same works to contemplate; and we are the same dependent creatures as were our first parents, with this great disadvantage on our parts, that we are ever prone to forget the Almighty, and require more means to keep us in remembrance of the Lord than ever Adam needed in primeval innocence.
4. When the Gentiles were brought into the Church of Christ by the preaching of the gospel, their observance of the Sabbath is mentioned by the prophet Isaiah, as positive proof of their conversion to God (chap. 56:6, 8). By this they testified their faith, affection, and obedience, in the great cause which they had espoused; they thus observed the command, exalted the goodness, and magnified the grace of that Supreme Being, whose name they were destined to profess and to honour in the world.
5. The last book of the inspired volume emphatically terms it, “the Lord’s day.”
III. ITS SCRIPTURAL OBSERVANCE.
1. A complete cessation of our secular employments.
2. Holy meditation of the Divine Being and works.
3. Fervent prayer.
4. A close attention to the Word of God.
5. Public worship.
1. Regard the Sabbath as a merciful appointment.
2. Lament the abuse of the Sabbath amongst us.
3. Observe the day thus blessed and sanctified. (Thomas Wood.)
I. THE WORSHIP OF GOD OUGHT TO BE MEN’S FIRST AND CHIEF CARE.
II. GOD MAKES GREAT ACCOUNT OF THE SANCTIFYING OF HIS SABBATHS.
1. As serving for a public and notorious badge of our profession Ezekiel 20:12).
2. An especial means of preserving and increasing of religion, being, as it were, the mart day for the soul, wherein we have commerce in a sort wholly with God in spiritual things, tendering unto Him, and pouring out before Him the affections of our souls in prayers and praises; and God pouring out grace and comfort upon our spirits in the use of His holy ordinances.
III. THE SABBATH DAY SANCTIFIED AS IT OUGHT IS A DAY OF BLESSINGS.
IV. THE SABBATH IS A DAY OF REST CONSECRATED BY GOD HIMSELF, AND SET APART FROM A COMMON TO A HOLY USE.
V. THE LAW GIVEN BY GOD FOR THE OBSERVATION OF THE SABBATH DAY IS A LAW UNIVERSAL AND PERPETUAL.
VI. MEDITATION ON GOD’S WORKS, THAT OUR HEARTS MAY BE RAISED UP TO A HOLY REJOICING IN HIM, IS, AND OUGHT TO BE, A CHRISTIAN’S CHIEF EXERCISE FOR THE RIGHT SANCTIFYING OF THE SABBATH DAY. (J. White, M. A.)
Intellectual gain of Sunday rest
Wilberforce accounts, in part at least, for the suicide of Castlereagh, Romilly, and Whitbread, by the absence of the Sabbath rest. Lord Hatherley, who rose to be Lord High Chancellor of England, testified, at a public meeting in Westminster, that many lawyers who were in the habit of Sunday study or practice of law have failed in mind and body--not a few of them becoming inmates of lunatic asylums; and that, within his experience, the successful and long-living lawyers are those who, like himself and Lords Cairns and Selborne, have always remembered the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. If you wish to get the full good of your mind, you will give it the rest which its Creator indicates; you will give it sleep; you will give it the Sabbath. The mind is not an artesian well, but a land spring. The supply is limited. If you pump continually, the water will grow turbid; and if, after it grows turbid, you continue still to work it, you will not increase the quantity, and you will spoil the pump. There is a difference of intellectual activity, but the most powerful mind is a land spring after all; and those who wish to preserve their thoughts fresh, pure, and pellucid, will put on the Sabbath padlock. In the subsequent clearness of their views, in the calmness of their judgment, and in the free and copious flow of ideas, they, find their speedy recompense.
The Sabbath--the weekly summer
It is the chief time for gathering knowledge to last you through the following week, just as summer is the chief season for gathering food to last you through the following twelvemonth. (A. W. Hare.)
Yes, it was the beautiful remark of an aged Christian, a poor widow, when asked by her minister, as she stood lingering in the porch of the church, “What have you been thinking of so deeply?”--“I have been thinking, sir, oh! that my Sabbaths would never end.” Happy state of mind! How natural the transition from the Sabbath that ends, to the Sabbath that never ends; from the Sabbath whose sun so soon sets, to the Sabbath of that city which “hath no Heed of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof,” and which hath “no temple, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” There will be no more temple there, for it will be all one temple--a temple where they rest not day nor night, crying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts.” God has annexed this blessing to His day, that in proportion as we love to enter into its blessed services, breathe its holy atmosphere, do we feel assured that heaven is ours, and that we are heaven’s, and that our Sabbaths are as blessed steps by which we rise higher and higher till we reach a Sabbath whose sun shall never set. (H. Stowell, M. A.)
Sabbath the perfection of creation
In “Bereshith Rabbah,” a Rabbinical commentary of the second century, it is beautifully said, “What is the institution of the Sabbath like? A king erected a marriage canopy, which he ornamented and beautified. When it was completed there was but one thing wanting, and that was the bride. Thus likewise, the creation of the world completed, its perfection required nothing but the Sabbath.”
These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth
The primeval condition of the earth, and of man as a sentient, spiritual, and social being
The economy of the kingdom of Inanimate nature, or of the vegetable world, was fitted at once to maintain the sovereignty of God, and to provide for the welfare of man; viewing mall as a compound being, having both body and soul (Genesis 2:5-7). Three things, it is here implied, are ordinarily necessary to the growth of plants and herbs--soil, climate, and culture. The vital energy of the earth itself, in which all various seeds are lodged, is the first element (Genesis 2:5). The influence of rain and dew from heaven comes next (Genesis 2:6). And lastly, there must be superadded the labour of the hand of man (Genesis 2:7 compared with Genesis 2:5). This is the law of nature, or rather of nature’s God.
II. The moral world also--the spiritual kingdom was rightly adjusted.
1. Man, as a sentient being, was placed in an earthly paradise (Genesis 2:8-15).
2. As a rational and religions being, he was subjected to a Divine law (Genesis 2:16-17).
3. As a social or companionable being, he was furnished with human fellowship (Genesis 2:18-25). (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
I. HE THAT GIVES THINGS THEIR BEING MAY DISPOSE AND ORDER THEM AS HE WILL
II. WHENSOEVER WE MENTION AND REMEMBER THE BEING OF THE CREATURES, WE OUGHT WITHAL TO SET BEFORE US AND REMEMBER HIM THAT MADE THEM. (J. White, M. A.)
A new section of creation history
A new section of creation history now begins, and the fourth verse is the title or heading: “The following are the details of what took place when God created heaven and earth.” The fifth is intended to state that all that was done was entirely God’s doing, without the help of second causes, without the refreshment of rain, without the aid of man, There had been no power in action hitherto but God’s alone. His hand, directly and alone, had done all that was done, in making plants and herbs to grow. The soil was not of itself productive; no previous seed existed; there was no former growth to spring up again. All was the finger of God. He is the sole Creator. Second causes, as they are called, are His creations: they owe their being, their influence to Him. The operations of nature, as men speak, are but the actings of the invisible God. God is in everything. Not as the Pantheist would have it, a part of everything, so that nature is God; but a personal Being, in everything, yet distinct from everything; filling, quickening, guiding creation in all its parts, yet no more the same with it than the pilot is with the vessel he steers, or the painter with the canvas on which he flings all the hues of earth and heaven. Let us beware of this subtle delusion of the evil one, the confounding of the creature with the Creator; of God, “the King eternal, immortal, and invisible,” with the hills, and plains, and forests, and flowers which He has made. To deify nature seems one of the special errors of the last days. And no wonder; for if nature be deified, then man is deified too. Man becomes God, and nature is the throne on which he sits. Let us not lose sight of God in nature. Let not that which is the manifestation of His glory be turned by us into an obscuration of Himself. Let us look straight to the living God. Not nature, but God; not providence, but God; not the law, but the Lawgiver; not the voice, but the Speaker; not the instrument and its wide melodies, but the Master who formed the lyre, and whose hands are drawing the music out of its wondrous chords! (H. Bonar, D. D.)
In Eden and out
The heading of this passage might not be inappropriate as the title of all the rest of the Bible. We have had the origin in the first chapter, and all the rest of the Bible gives the development--the development of the heavens and the earth, until at last, after all the changes of time are over, we shall witness the inauguration of “the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” In the meantime we shall limit our view to the little book of Generations, with its sad record of fall and failure, gilded, however, with a gleam of hope at the close.
I. First, then, there is a different name for God introduced here. All through the Genesis it has been, “God said,” “God made,” “God created.” Now it is invariably, “Jehovah God” (Lord God in our version). And this is the only continuous passage in the Bible where the combination is used. How is this explained? Very easily. In the apocalypse of the Genesis, God makes Himself known simply as Creator. Sin has not yet entered, and so the idea of salvation has no place. In this passage sin is coming in, and along with it the promise of salvation. Now the name Jehovah is always connected with the idea of salvation. It is the covenant name. It is the name which indicates God’s special relation to His people, as their Saviour and Redeemer. But lest anyone should suppose from the change of name that there is any change in the person; lest anyone suppose that He who is to redeem us from sin and death, is a different being from Him who created the heavens and the earth, the two names are now combined--Jehovah God. The combination is retained throughout the entire narrative of the Fall to make the identification sure. Thereafter either name is used by itself without danger of error.
II. Look next at the way in which Nature is spoken of here. When you look at it aright, you find there is no repetition. Nature in the Genesis is universal nature. God created all things. But here, nature comes in, as it has to do immediately with Adam. Now see the effect of this. It at once removes difficulties, which many speak of as of great magnitude. In the first place it is not the whole earth that is now spoken of, but a very limited district. Our attention is narrowed down to Eden, and the environs of Eden, a limited district in a particular part of the earth. Hence the difficulty about there not being rain in the district (“earth”) disappears. Again, it is not the vegetable kingdom as a whole that is referred to in the fifth verse, but only the agricultural and horticultural products. The words “plant,” “field,” and “grew” (verse 5) are new words, not found in the creation record. In Genesis 1:1-31. the vegetable kingdom as a whole was spoken of. Now, it is simply the cereals and garden herbs, and things of that sort; and here, instead of coming into collision with the previous narrative, we have something that corresponds with what botanists tell us, that field and garden products are sharply distinguished in the history of nature, from the old flora of the geological epochs. In the same way it is not the whole animal kingdom that is referred to in verse nineteen, but only the domestic animals, those with which man was to be especially associated, and to which he was very much more intimately related than to the wild beasts of the field. It may be easy to make this narrative look ridiculous, by bringing the wild beasts in array before Adam, as if any companionship with them were conceivable. But when we bear in mind that reference is made here to the domestic animals, there is nothing at all inappropriate in noticing, that while there is a certain degree of companionship possible between man and some of those animals, as the horse and dog, yet none of these was the companion he needed.
III. Passing now from nature to man, we find again a marked difference. In Genesis 1:1-31 we are told, “God created man in His own image; in the image of God created He him.” And here: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). Some people tell us there is a contradiction here. Is there any contradiction? Are not both of them true? Is there not something that tells you that there is more than dust in your composition? When you hear the statement that “God made man in His own image,” is there not a response awakened in you--something in you that rises up and says, It is true? On the other hand, we know that man’s body is formed of the dust of the earth. We find it to be true in a more literal sense than was formerly supposed, now that chemistry discloses the fact that the same elements enter into the composition of man’s body, as are found by analysis in the “dust of the ground.” And not only are both these statements true, but each is appropriate in its place. In the first account, when man’s place in universal nature was to be set forth--man as he issued from his Maker’s hand--was it not appropriate that his higher nature should occupy the foreground? His lower relations are not entirely out of sight even there, for he is introduced along with a whole group of animals created on the sixth day. But while his connection with them is suggested, that to which emphasis is given in the Genesis is his relation to his Maker. But now that we are going to hear about his fall, about his shame and degradation, is it not appropriate that the lower rather than the higher part of his nature should be brought into the foreground, inasmuch as it is there that the danger lies? It was to that part of his nature that the temptation was addressed; and so we read here, “God formed man of the dust of the ground.” Yet here too there is a hint of his higher nature, for it is added, “He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,” or as we have it in another passage, “The inspiration of the Almighty gave him understanding.” In this connection it is worth while to notice the use of the words “created” and “formed.” “God created man in His own image.” So far as man’s spiritual and immortal nature was concerned it was a new creation. On the other hand, “God formed man out of the dust of die ground.” We are not told He created man’s body out of nothing. We are told, and the sciences of today confirm it, that it was formed out of existing materials. Then, in relation to woman, there is the same appropriateness in the two narratives. In the former her relations to God are prominent: “God created man in His own image. In the image of God created He him; male and female created He them”--man in His image; woman in His image. In the latter, it is not the relation of woman to her Maker that is brought forward, but the relation of woman to her husband. Hence the specific reference to her organic connection with her husband. And now, is there anything irrational in the idea that woman should be formed out of man? Is there anything more mysterious or inconceivable in the formation of woman out of man, than in the original formation of man out of dust? Let us conceive of our origin in any way we choose, it is full of mystery, Though there may be mystery connected with what is said in the Bible, there will be just as much mystery connected with any other account you try to give of it. (J. M. Gibson, D. D.)
Every plant of the field
One of the most beautiful scientific generalizations was the result, not of the patient, persevering researches of the naturalist, but of the dreamy reverie of a peer.
On the meditative mind of Goethe on one occasion dawned the bright idea, that the flower of a plant is not, as is commonly supposed, an added or separate organ, but only the highest development, or rather transformation of its leaves--that all the parts of a plant, from the seed to the blossom, are mere modifications of a leaf. This one idea has done more to lift the veil of mystery from nature, and to interpret the plans and purposes of the Creator, than all the previous labours of botanists. It shows us order in the midst of confusion; simplicity in the midst of apparently inextricable complexity; unity of plan amid endless diversity of form. Thoreau, watching the leafy expansions of frost vegetation on the window pane and on the blades of grass, declared that “the Maker of this earth but patented a leaf.” He traced the leaf pattern throughout all the kingdoms of Nature. He saw it in the brilliant feathers of birds; in the lustrous wings of insects; in the pearly scales of fishes; in the blue-veined palm of the human hand; and in the ivory shell of the human ear. The earth itself, according to him, is but a vast leaf veined with silver rivers and streams, with irregularities of surface formed by mountains and valleys, and varied tints of green in forest and field, and great bright spaces of sea and lake. This, however, is a mere transcendental idea when thus applied to all the departments of nature; it is scientific truth only when confined to the vegetable kingdom. But the unity of which it speaks may be traced everywhere. All the recent discoveries of science, both as regards the forms and the forces of matter, have an obvious tendency to simplify greatly the scheme of nature, and reduce its phenomena to the operation of a few simple laws; and in this respect they have a profound theological significance. Amid these brilliant generalizations, we cannot stop short until we have reached the highest and sublimest generalization, and nature has led us by such great altar steps up to nature’s God. The theory of the leaf, as lying at the basis of the vegetable kingdom, requires more particular explanation. All plants are produced from seeds or buds; the one free, the other attached; the one spreading the plant geographically, the other increasing its individual size. Carefully examined, the seed, or starting point in the life of a plant, is composed of a leaf rolled tight, and altered in tissue and contents, so as to suit its new requirements. The real character of a seed may be seen in the germination of a bean, when the two leaves of which it is composed appear in the fleshy lobes or cotyledons which first rise above ground, and afford nourishment to the embryo. The bud, or epitome of the plant, which is physiologically co-ordinate with the seed, is also found to consist of leaves folded in a peculiar manner, and covered with tough leathery scales to protect them from the winter’s cold; and in spring it evolves the stem, leaves, and fruit--in short, every structure which comes of the seed. Further, all the appendages borne on the stem--such as scales, leaves, bracts, flowers, and fruit--are modifications of this one common type. Flowers, the glory of the vegetable world, are merely leaves, arranged so as to protect the vital organs within them, and coloured so as to attract insects to scatter the fertilizing pollen, and to reflect or absorb the light and heat of the sun for ripening the seed. Stamens and pistils may be converted by the skill of the gardener into petals, and the blossoms so produced are called double, and are, therefore, necessarily barren. The wild rose, for example, has only a single corolla; but when cultivated in rich soil, its numerous yellow stamens are changed into the red leaves of the full-blown cabbage rose. That all the parts of the flower, the calyx, corolla, stamens, and pistils, are modified leaves, is proved by the fact that it is by no means uncommon for a plant to produce leaves instead of them. We come next to the fruit, which, in all its astonishing varieties of texture, colour, and shape, is also a modified leaf; and it is one of the most interesting studies in natural history, to trace the correspondence between the different parts of structures so greatly altered and the original type. In the peach, for instance, the stone is the upper skin of a leaf hardened so as to protect the kernel or seed; the pulp is the cellular tissue of a leaf expanded and endowed with nutritive properties for the sustenance of the embryo plant; and the beautiful downy skin on the outside is the lower cuticle of the leaf with a sun bloom upon it, the hollow line on one side of the fruit marking the union between the two edges of the leaf. So also in the apple; the parchment-like core is the upper surface of the leaf, and the flesh is the cellular tissue greatly swollen; in the orange, the juicy lips enclosing the seeds are the different sections of the leaf developed in an extraordinary manner; while through the transparent skin of the ripe gooseberry, we see the ramifications of the leaf veins, conclusively proving its origin. In all the parts and organs of the plant then, from the seed to the fruit, we have found that the leaf is the type or pattern after which they have been constructed; and those modifications of structure, colour, and composition, which they exhibit, are for special purposes in the economy of the plant in the first place, and ultimately for necessary services to the animal creation, and even to man himself, to whom the sweetness of the fruit and the beauty of the flower must have had reference in the gracious intentions of Him who created them both. On the leaf itself may be read, as unmistakeably as on a printed page, its morphological significance. As the architect draws on a chart the plan of a building, so the Divine Artist has engraved on the leaf the plan of the organism, of which it is the only essential typical appendage. Each leaf in shape and formation may be regarded as a miniature picture, a model of the whole plant on which it grows. The outline of a tree in full summer foliage may be seen represented in the outline of any one of its leaves; the uniform cellular tissue which composes the flat surface of the leaf being equivalent to the round irregular mass of the foliage. In fact, the green cells which clothe the veins of the leaf, and fill up all its interspaces, may be regarded as the analogues of the green leaves which clothe the branches of the tree: and although the leaf be in one plane, there are many trees, such as the beach, whose foliage, when looked at from a certain point of view, is also seen to be in one plane. Tall pyramidal trees have narrow leaves, as we see in the needles of the pine; while wide-spreading trees, on the other hand, have broad leaves, as may be observed in those of the elm or sycamore. In every case the correspondence between the shape of the individual leaf and the whole mass of the foliage is remarkably exact, even in the minutest particulars, and cannot fail to strike with wonder everyone who notices it for the first time. Examining the leaf more carefully, we find that the fibrous veins which ramify over its surface bear a close resemblance to the ramification of the trunk and branches of the parent tree; they are both given off at the same angles, and are so precisely alike in their complexity or simplicity, that from a single leaf we can predicate with the utmost certainty the appearance of the whole tree from which it fell, just as the skilful anatomist can construct in imagination, from a single bone or tooth, the whole animal organism of which it formed a part. In connection with this general typical character of the leaf may be viewed its particular typical significance, as representing the three great classes into which the vegetable kingdom has been divided. That it is possible to determine from the leaf alone, or even from the smallest fragment of it, what position to assign to any given plant in our systems of classification, is surely owing to the fact that the plan of the leaf is the basis upon which all vegetation, as a distinct kind of life, has been constructed. There is no end to the diversity of shape which leaves display; almost every species of plant having a different kind of leaf. But it almost never occurs to us to ask ourselves the object of this variation of shape. We regard it as a thing of course, or refer it to that boundless variety which characterises all the works of nature, in accommodation, we proudly but foolishly suppose, to man’s hatred of uniformity. But observation and reflection will convince us that there is a special reason for it; that the shapes of leaves are not capricious or accidental, but formed according, to an invariable law, the council of His will with “whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning.” In the first place there is a morphological reason for it. The shape of leaves depends upon the distribution of the veins, and the distribution of the veins upon the mode of branching in the plant, and the mode of branching in the plant to its typical character as an exogens or endogens, and its typical character brings us back again to the leaf. When the leaf is simple, the branching of the stem and the blossoms is simple; and when the leaf is compound, all the parts of the plant are also compound. But besides this morphological reason for the immense variety of leaf shapes, there are also teleological and geographical reasons. Leaves are adapted not only to the typical character of the whole plant, but also to the character of the situation in which it grows. They are, moreover, exactly constructed to shade and shelter, or freely expose to the light and air, the plants on which they are found, and to transmit the dews and rains which fall upon them to the young absorbing roots. He who studies attentively and reverently the numerous wonderful modifications in shape and structure which the typical leaf undergoes, to suit the varied circumstances of plants, will be brought by this study, more closely than by anything out of the Bible, into the personal presence of Him who said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” I have often had a train of reflections of the most profitable kind awakened in my mind by simply looking at the common water ranunculus, whose white flowers cover the surface of many of our quiet rivulets in June, and observing that the leaves floating or the top of the water were round and broad, whereas the lower ones, immersed in the stream, were divided into a vast number of linear segments, so as not to impede the current or be torn by its force. Even in gazing on the common gorse or whin of our hillsides--a plant, apart from the golden glory with which the summer halos it, not very attractive to the lover of beauty--I have been often struck with the same adaptation to the tempestuous currents of the air, in its sharp needle-like leaves and stems--a proof of God’s care over the homeliest thing, giving more honour to that which lacked it. But feelings of greater interest still will be excited by the more wonderful adaptations which we see in the tropical plants growing in our conservatories. The mimosa, peculiarly exposed to injury, sensitively drooping its leaves at the slightest touch; the pitcher plant, holding up its leaf goblets filled with water to refresh it in the thirsty desert; the leaf of the Venus’ flytrap of North America, closing together on its prey by turning on its mid-rib as on a hinge; the leaf of the cactus growing on the dry plateaus of Mexico, fleshy and juicy, and having no evaporating pores in its skin, so that the moisture imbibed by the root is retained; the gigantic leaf of the royal water lily of South America, furnished on the underside with outstanding veins of great depth, acting as so many supporting ribs: these and a thousand other instances almost equally remarkable, that might be alluded to, attract the most careless eye, and in their strange variations from the typical form, disclose abundant proof of beneficent design. The colours as well as the shapes of leaves are wonderfully diversified, though green is the prevailing hue, and every varied shade of that colour, from the darkest to the lightest tint, is exhibited--and very beautifully, for instance, in the verdure of spring; yet the whole chromatic scale may be seen illustrated in the foliage of plants. Indeed, where it is possible to see specimens of the whole vegetable kingdom growing together, an autumnal forest would not exhibit greater varieties of coloured foliage. In some plants the leaves are as beautiful as the flowers of other plants: and these are now cultivated and grouped with great effect in our conservatories. A greenhouse full of beautifully foliaged plants, is as attractive as one stocked with gay blossoms. It is a remarkable circumstance, that when the leaves are dressed in bright crimson, or golden, or silvery splendours, the flowers are almost invariably sombre in hue, and insignificant in form and size. What purposes such beautiful leaves may serve in the economy of vegetation, we cannot in every case find out satisfactorily. It may be to absorb or reflect the light and heat of the sun in a peculiar way, or to guard the vital organs from injury by diverting attention from them. In orchids and other plants, the blossoms are gorgeously coloured and peculiarly shaped, in order to attract insects, without whose agency the species could not be fertilized or propagated. But in plants where the foliage is large and beautiful, and the flower minute and sombre, it seems as if Nature wished to conceal her vital processes, lest they should be frustrated or injured by animals. Probably, also, the same law of compensation may be illustrated in the case of coloured leaves, as in the irregular corolla of flowers, where the odd petal has a different and much brighter colour, as in the common pansy. Do not these curious plants, that among their leaves of light have no need of flowers, resemble those lure human plants, that develope all the beauties of mind and character at an exceptionally early age, and rapidly ripen for the tomb? They do not live to bring forth the flowers and the fruit of life’s vigorous prime; and therefore God converts their foliage into flowers, crowns the initial stage with the glories of the final, and makes their very leaves beautiful. By the transfiguration of His grace, by the light that never was on sea or land, He adorns even their tender years with all the loveliness which in other cases comes only with full maturity. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
There was not a man to till the ground
The earth without a man
I. THE WORLD’S INDEPENDENCY OF MAN. The terraqueous globe, embosomed in those wonderful heavens, and filled with every species of vegetable and animal life, existed before man appeared.
1. The world can do without him. The heavens would be as bright, the earth as beautiful, the waves of the ocean as sublime, the song of the bird is as sweet; were man no more.
2. He cannot do without the world. He needs its bright skies, and flowing rivers, and productive soil, etc. He is the most dependent of all creatures.
II. THE WORLD’S INCOMPLETENESS WITHOUT MAN. Without man the world would be a school without a pupil, a theatre without a spectator, a mansion without a resident, a temple without a worshipper. Learn from this subject--
1. The lesson of adoring gratitude to the Creator. Adore Him for the fact, the capabilities, and the sphere of your existence.
2. The lesson of profound humility. The world can do without thee, my brother; has done without thee; and will do without thee.
III. THE WORLD’S CLAIM UPON MAN. “The earth He hath given to the children of men.” The nature of this gift proclaims the obligation of the receiver.
1. The world is filled with material treasures; develop and use them.
2. The world is fertile with moral lessons; interpret and apply them.
3. The world is filled with the presence of God; walk reverently. (Homilist.)
I. EVERY HERB AND PLANT UPON THE EARTH IS GOD’S CREATURE.
II. NOT ONLY THE MERCIES OF GOD IS GENERAL, BUT EVERY PARTICULAR BLESSING MUST BE TAKEN NOTICE OF AS COMING FROM GOD.
III. THAT WHICH IS BROUGHT TO PASS WITHOUT ORDINARY MEANS, MUST NEEDS BE WROUGHT BY THE HAND AND POWER OF GOD HIMSELF.
IV. THERE CAN BE NO RAIN ON THE EARTH UNLESS GOD SEND IT.
V. IT IS BY RAIN FROM HEAVEN THAT ALL THE HERBS AND PLANTS ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH DO GROW AND ARE NOURISHED.
VI. THOUGH GOD BE PLEASED TO MAKE USE OF MAN’S LABOUR IN PRODUCING AND CHERISHING THE FRUITS OF THE EARTH, YET HE CAN INCREASE AND PRESERVE THEM WITHOUT IT.
VII. THOUGH THE FRUITFULNESS OF THE EARTH COME ONLY BY GOD’S BLESSING, YET THE LABOUR OF MAN IS REQUIRED AS THE ORDINARY MEANS TO FURTHER IT. (J. White.)
I. GOD WANTS NO VARIETY OF MEANS TO EFFECT WHATSOEVER HE WILL.
II. GOD CAN, AND MANY TIMES DOTH, BRING THINGS TO PASS WITHOUT ANY MEANS AT ALL.
III. GOD’S POWER IN EFFECTING ALL THINGS IS NEVER CLEARLY DISCOVERED UNTIL ALL MEANS BE REMOVED.
IV. EVERY CREATURE OUGHT IN AN ESPECIAL MANNER TO BE USEFUL UNTO THAT FROM WHENCE IT IS PRODUCED. (J. White.)
A gardener wanted
Here begins that great system of Divine and human cooperation which is still in progress. There were trees, plants, herbs, and flowers, but a gardener was wanted to get out of the earth everything that the earth could yield. By planting, and transplanting, and replanting, you may turn a coarse tree into a rare botanical specimen,--you may refine it by development. So man got something for his own pains, and became a sort of secondary creator! This was also too much for him. He began to think that he had done nearly everything himself, quite forgetting who gave him the germs, the tools, the skill, and the time. It is so easy for you junior partners in old city firms to think that the “house” would have been nowhere if you had not gone into partnership! But really and truly, odd as it may seem, there was a “house” before you took it up and glorified it. What a chance had man in beginning life as a gardener! Beginning life in the open sunny air, without even a hothouse to try his temper! Surely he ought to have done something better than he did. The air was pure, the climate was bright, the soil was kindly: you had but to “tickle it with a spade and it laughed in flowers.” And a river in the grounds! Woe to those who have their water far to fetch! But here in the garden is the stream, so broad that at the moment it is liberated from the sacred place it divides itself into four evangelists, carrying everywhere the odours of Eden and the offer of kindly help. Surely, then, man was well housed to begin with. He did not begin life as a beggar. He farmed his own God-given land, without disease, or disability, or taxation to fret him; yet what did he make of the fruitful inheritance? Did the roots turn to poison in his mouth, and the flowers hang their heads in shame when his shadow fell on them? We shall see. (J. Parker, D. D.)
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground
The humility and dignity of man
“The Lord God formed man,” etc.
I. THEN MAN OUGHT NOT TO INDULGE A SPIRIT OF PRIDE.
II. THEN MAN OUGHT NOT TO INDULGE A SPIRIT OF HOSTILITY TO GOD. Shall we contend with our Maker, the finite with the infinite?
III. THEN MAN SHOULD REMEMBER HIS MORTALITY. “Unto dust shalt thou return.” (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
1. The emblem of frailty (Psalms 109:14).
2. The emblem of nothingness (Genesis 18:27).
3. The emblem of defilement (Isaiah 52:2).
4. The emblem of humiliation (Lamentations 3:29; Job
5. The emblem of mourning (Joshua 7:6).
6. The emblem of mortality (Ecclesiastes 3:20; Ecclesiastes 12:7). (H. Bonar.)
Man’s body formed of dust
Man hath received from God not only an excellent fabric and composure of body, but, if you consider it, the very matter of which the body is composed is far more excellent than dust or earth. Take a piece of earth, a handful of dust, and compare them with the flesh of man; that flesh is earth indeed, but that flesh is far better than mere earth. This shows the power of the Creator infinitely exceeding the power of a creature. A goldsmith can make you a goodly jewel, but you must give him gold and precious stones of which to make it; he can put the matter into a better form, but he cannot make the matter better. The engraver can make a curious statue, exactly limbed and proportioned to the life, out of a rough piece, but the matter must be the same as put into his hands: if you give him marble, it will be a marble statue; he cannot mend the matter. Man’s work often exceeds his matter; but man’s work cannot make the matter exceed itself. If the body, then, be but clay and hath a foundation of dust, do not bestow too much cost upon the clay and the dust. In an over-cared body there ever dwells a neglected soul. We usually laugh at children, when they are making houses of clay. They whose care is overactive for the body are but children of a greater stature, and show they have as much more folly in their hearts than they. There is no child like to the old child. (J. Caryl.)
Organization of the body
God made the human body, and it is by far the most exquisite and wonderful organization which has come to us from the Divine hand. It is a study for one’s whole life. If an undevout astronomer is mad, an undevout physiologist is still madder. The stomach that prepares the body’s support; the vessels that distribute the supply; the arteries that take up the food and send it round; the lungs that aerate the all-nourishing blood; that muscle engine which, without fireman or engineer, stands night and day pumping and driving a wholesome stream with vital irrigation through all the system, that unites and harmonises the whole band of organs; the brain, that dwells in the dome high above, like a true royalty; these, with their various and wonderful functions are not to be lightly spoken of, or irreverently held. (H. W. Beecher.)
I. THE SUBSTANCE OF MAN’S BODY IS EXCEEDING BASE AND VILE.
II. HOW BASE SOEVER THE MATTER OF MAN’S BODY IS, YET GOD HATH FRAMED IT INTO A CURIOUS AND EXCELLENT PIECE OF WORK.
III. THE SOUL OF MAN BY WHICH HE LIVES, COMES IMMEDIATELY FROM GOD HIMSELF.
1. Let our souls seek unto Him, who gave them, and serve Him, as we are directed (1 Corinthians 6:20).
2. Lay hold on this as a ground of special comfort; that which God hath given more immediately, He will certainly most carefully preserve and provide for, as it appears He hath done, by redeeming the soul from hell, and purging it from sin by the blood of His own Son, and adorning it with the graces of His Spirit, and reserving it hereafter to enjoy His presence, and there to be satisfied with His image.
IV. THE LIFE OF MAN CONSISTING IN THE UNION OF THE SOUL WITH THE BODY, HATH BUT A VERY WEAK FOUNDATION.
V. THE LIFE OF MAN IS ONLY BY HIS SOUL.
VI. THERE IS NONE WORTHY OF THE NAME OF A LIVING SOUL, BUT HE ONLY THAT LIVES BY A REASONABLE SOUL. (J. White.)
Humbling origin of body
This is most humbling. It was not formed of heavenly matter, as the radiant sun, or the sparkling stars, nor the most precious jewels. Gold and silver were not melted down, nor were sparkling diamonds made use of, but God formed it of the vile dust which is trodden under foot. (J. Flavel.)
Constituents of the human body
Out of the ordinary elements of the material world is that body made, and into those elements it is resolved again. With all its beauties of form and expression, with all its marvels of structure and of function, there is nothing whatever in it except some few of the elementary substances which are common in the atmosphere and the soil. The three commonest gases, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen, with carbon, and with sulphur, are the foundation stones. In slightly different proportions, these elements constitute the primordial combination of matter which is the abode of life. In the finished structure there appear, besides, lime, potash, and a little iron, sodium, and phosphorus. These are the constituents of the human body--of these in different combinations--and, so far as we know, nothing else. (Duke of Argyll’s “Unity of Nature. ”)
It is because of the composition of our body that the animals and plants around us are capable of ministering to our support, that the common air is to us the very breath of life, and that herbs and minerals in abundance have either poisoning properties or healing virtue. (Duke of Argyll’s “Unity of Nature.”)
The breath of life
Breathing, according to the physiologists, is a genuine burning, and consumes organic substance in us, as fire does in our stoves. It takes the same oxygen from the air, combines it with the same elements, with the same evolution of heat, and gives off the same products in our breath as in smoke. Respiration is a real fire. Still, may we not find under this destructive process some beneficent spiritual law? We ought to, for it is also a most vital process. “Breath of life,” the Bible calls it, in a phrase I take for text; and life seems more closely connected with breath than with anything else, beginning on earth with it, ever depending on it, ever advancing with its increase. So the lesson of respiration seems to be that destruction does not destroy, that consuming does not kill, that even burning brings life. This is the lesson I wish to illustrate. But respiration is not limited to animals. It begins in a much lower and rises into a much higher field.
I. We notice it in the VEGETABLE world. For even plants, besides that taking of food for growth, take true breath to burn out their growth. We are wont to speak of Moses’ burning bush as a miracle unique in nature. But botanists say that every bush on earth is burning. Through its every living cell that fiery oxygen works all summer. In autumn, too, the colours come from oxidation of the chlorophyll, so that Whittier put good science in his poem when he called “yon maple wood the burning bush.” And in certain processes the breath and fire become active enough to show their heat. Such is the ease in sprouting seeds. Such is the ease in flowers. In the sight of chemistry, flowers are all fires; and one great genus is well named phlox--flame. There was fact enough in Hafiz’s fancy that roses were the flames of a burning bush; and botany adds that every blooming plant is another, whether blazing in the cardinal flower or only smoking in the gray grass blossoms. And, just as in that bush of old story, this burning does not harm. Rather, it is so helpful that the plant dies without it as surely as a man without air, and quickly, too. And not only does it not consume the life, but with still greater miracle creates new. Out of that burning seed it brings a new plant. It brings new energies, too. In each cell the fire creates force, just as in the boiler of a boat; and, as a result, the celiac of some algae lash the water like oars, the diatom moves across the field of the microscope like a propeller across the lake, and the beautiful volvox goes rolling through the water like the wheel of a steamer. And out of that warmer fire in the flower how many new creations come! One is beauty. The leaves are refined to softer petals and grow radiant with gold and purple, and proclaim to us that spiritual law that the highest beauty is reached only through the burning out of our substance. The same process brings sweetness, too--oxidizes starch to sugar, and loads the flower with honey and perfume. It even brings something like love; and the corolla becomes a real marriage bower, and stamen and pistil join in the genuine wedding, and give themselves for each other and their offspring. And so the flower is consumed only to rise again from its ashes, and extend its life to distant lands and ages.
II. But we see this law clearer in its revelation in the ANIMAL world. Here breath is more active, and grows evermore so through the rising animal scale. And this deeper breathing always means faster burning. Analysis shows, for instance, that the breath of an average healthy man consumes carbon at the rate of one hundred and seventy pounds a year--literally burns up within him every month the substance of over a bushel of charcoal. With this increasing fire comes increasing warmth. And here, too, the fire does not consume. It does, indeed, waste our substance, so that the animal, unlike the tree, soon gets his growth. Some poor-lunged creatures are said to lengthen as long as they live, like an elm; but better breathers burn up their accumulations, and men and birds keep but little body. Nor do they keep even that; but it is continually consumed--several times during our lives, the doctor says: muscles, nerves, lungs, heart, brain, bones, and all. But this consumption is always restored, and does not harm us in the least. Rather, it is just the thing that keeps us alive. If we were not thus perpetually destroyed we should get sick, and die; and the only way we can keep alive and well is by being annihilated every few years. And the curious thing to notice is that this destructive process is just the one which cannot be suspended at all. Other functions may be stopped for a season, even the nutritive ones. The really important thing is burning up. When the fire goes out, we die; but so long as it is consuming us we thrive. Such is the paradox and first principle of this mysterious thing called life. Burning saves and increases it. Increases all its energies, too. The faster this breath burns, the greater the activity. Such a breath of life is this fire in the animal world.
III. But this breath rises to a third stage in HUMAN ARTS. For man breathes more largely than with lungs; and, learning how to burn that carbon anywhere, he adds to nature’s slow fire within him a much faster one without. So he heats his hut and home; and, instead of having to migrate like an animal, he brings Florida to his own fireside, and makes the tropics anywhere to order. And, learning how to make this artificial breathing faster and fire fiercer, he gains new forces that far outdo those of animals. Instead of crawling through the country, like that quadruped, he makes this fire carry him and all his family and furniture further and faster. Instead of flying fifty miles for his breakfast, like a bird, he sits still like a lord and orders it, beefsteak from Texas, rolls from Dakota, an orange from Italy, and coffee from Asia. And, by this breath under a boiler, he gets them brought so easily that Mr. Atkinson says a good mechanic in Massachusetts can get his whole year’s meat and flour fetched from beyond the Mississippi for one day’s work; and Sir Lyon Playfair said this summer that a ton of freight can be carried on land a mile by two ounces of carbon, and on water two miles by a little cube of coal that would pass through a ring the size of a shilling. Nor does man stop with moving nature’s products, but works better by this same principle. In his manufactures and his varied arts, he learns to consume not merely a little in the form of food, like an animal, but enormously in other forms--not only acorns, but oaks; not only fruits, but whole forests; not only a few acres, but long ages of them condensed in coal; and not only coal and other organic products, but ores and rocks and the original elements themselves. Human art becomes a boundless burning, destroying about everything on earth. Yet this burning, too, only helps. It turns the forests into force, and the whole carboniferous era into energy--turns ores and everything into something better. It consumes only to create. Indeed, strictly speaking, it does not consume at all. Not an atom of carbon or anything else has ever been destroyed. Burning only sets it free from old forms to enter into life again: and nature is always waiting to start it into life, and is all the summer turning our smoke and ashes back into new trees and corn.
IV. But above these material fields we trace the same principle through a fourth phase, in SPIRITUAL LIFE. Thought is a breathing, ever inhaling fresh truth, which consumes old ideas in society, just as oxygen does old cells in the body. Indeed, those arts we have just noticed have all come from this mental breathing. How many established opinions had to be consumed to bring that ease of travel! Once, even science argued that no steamer could ever cross the Atlantic; and there was a time when everybody knew that steam could not carry anything on land, either. The first modern who suggested such a thing is said to have been shut up in the Bicetre for it as a lunatic. Afterward, the Englishman who first advocated passenger railways was called by the Quarterly Review, “beneath our contempt,” while the wise old Edinburgh Review said, “Put him in a straitjacket.” So many and so firmly established ideas have been consumed this century in this mere matter of travel. And this is only an illustration of the consumption of old theories that has been going on through the arts and sciences and philosophies and all fields. Yet here, too, it has consumed only to create, and been in still higher degree the “breath of life.” It has aided all those arts and sciences. It has advanced society, too--just as breathing has advanced the animal kingdom--and has brought to mankind a progress about as great as from mollusks to mammals. It has burned out social wrongs only to bring rights. What an advance history shows, from savages eating each other to modern society feeding its hungry and founding hospitals and charities of a hundred kinds! What an advance in morality, even since the praised days of our pious ancestors last century, when Parton says the best Christian in New England saw nothing wrong in buying negroes for rum and selling them for West India molasses to make rum to buy more! What a moral progress from even the boasted Bible days--when David could slay a man to steal his wife, and still be revered asmost sacred Psalmist; and Solomon, with a whole regiment of wives, could be sainted for wisdom and thought worthy to make the longest prayer in the Bible--today, when such saints would be thought hardly so fit for writing sacred poetry as for working in the penitentiary! For religion, too, has felt the effects of this spiritual breathing, and been advancing by it. Here, too, ancient ideas have been burning out to bring better; and Samuel’s Jehovah, ordering innocent men to be slain like mice, gave way to Isaiah’s God of justice and Jesus’ of love. Here, too, the burning has been a very “breath of life”; and religion ought to have learned ere this to breathe fearlessly, and let its old forms be consumed as fast as they will. All that is really alive and worth living, in our beliefs and bodies alike, will not be harmed. Only the effete and hurtful will be burned out, and will bring new warmth and life in the process, and be replaced by better. Let religion, then, breathe away, and continue to enlarge its lungs and elevate its life. But breath brings its best lessons to private life. It rebukes our greed, and bids us burn out our gains generously. Gain is good, but must be followed by giving, as eating by breathing, if we would rise above vegetables. Indeed, our gains have to be given away, to get the good of them. Miserliness is very near to misery, as even etymology teaches. The wise preacher advocated foreign missionary contributions, since, he said, if they were of no help to the heathen, they greatly helped the Christian contributors at home; and giving does enrich the giver, whether it does anyone else or not. Beneficence is the bank that pays the best interest on deposits, and pays back in better coin than was put in; and our proverbs have well declared that the best way to keep what we get is by giving it away to some good cause. But this truth of external possessions is still truer of ourselves. They, too, must be given away in order to be kept, or even to be found at first. “The life of life is when for another we’re living,” says a poet; and another tells of one to whom love was the first waking,--“The past was a sleep, and her life began.” Love, whether of a person or a cause, is indeed the highest form of the breath of life. It consumes as nothing else can, wastes with self-sacrifice and sorrows, yet only to lift to larger life, to bless with new powers and higher happiness. Selfishness is as fatal to the soul as holding the breath to the body; and burning ourselves out in sacrifice for something is the only way to keep the heart warm and the soul alive. (H. M. Simmons.)
The human spirit
Upon the bodily side man stands among the animals as the noblest of them; but he has another side by which he holds communion with God and invisible things. He has a spirit as well as a body--a spirit not like that “spirit of the beast which goeth downward to the earth,” having but an attraction to the things of sense, and that an unreflecting attraction; the spirit of the sons of man is one “which is ascending” (Ecclesiastes 3:21). The spirit is in us the element of self-consciousness and freedom. By it we see our true relation to the things of sense, and are able to claim affinities above them. It is a gift from God Ecclesiastes 12:7), and unless it be unfairly tampered with, it must by its very constitution “ascend,” and aspire after God and what is Godlike. In it is the seat of the higher, the only true, free will, as opposed to the random animal impulses of the flesh. There lies the power of conscience, by which we are able to judge our own actions, comparing them with what we see to be the right standard, and condemning ourselves when we have allowed the true will to be mastered by the inferior appetite. Such a spirit is not, and cannot be (so far as we can understand), a product of natural evolution, but comes direct from the hand of God. Man is thus a dual being, living at one in two worlds, not two separate lives, but one life in the two. The spirit lives in the body, and acts through it and makes it its vehicle. The meeting point of spirit and body appears to lie in the soul. (Canon Mason.)
Life--its nature, discipline, and results
There are two ways in which we are accustomed to estimate the relative importance of events--one by considering what they are in themselves; and the other by considering what they are in their consequences. Viewed in either of these aspects, the event referred to in the text is by far the most important that ever occurred in our world. The creation of the heavens and the earth, with all their various appendages, is not to be compared with it. In the one case only matter was created and arranged under fixed laws; in the other mind was created, intelligent, immortal mind, made in the image of God, in dignity a little lower than the angels, commencing its fight for eternity. And then the consequences of that event, how surpassing all finite comprehension! From that moment commenced the history of the human race; from that moment began to flow the great stream of human life, which, now for six thousand years, has been deepening and surging onward, pouring itself into the ocean of eternity. That living soul, into which God first breathed the breath of life, is still alive; and so are all the countless myriads of souls which in successive generations He has brought into being; all are still alive and will live forever. What, then, is life, that mysterious principle which was enkindled within us by the Creator when we began to be, and which makes us living souls? This question, viewed in its physiological aspect, I shall not attempt to answer, as I find the ablest writers on the subject are entirely undecided in respect to it, or rather they are decided that we cannot know what life is in itself, or in its essence. We know some of the conditions on which it depends; some of the laws which govern it, and the phenomena which it exhibits; but what the vital principle, what life is, we seem not to have the means of knowing. There are various kinds of life which belong to different orders of being, and which are characterized by distinct qualities. There is vegetable life, and a portion of this belongs to the human being in common with plants and trees. There is animal life, and this we have in common with birds and beasts that live and move around us. And there is intellectual or spiritual life, and this we are wont to regard as belonging exclusively to the soul, and which makes us, in the sense of our text, living immortal souls. It is of life in this last sense that I am now to speak; not of life as simple animal existence, nor of life as a mere period of continuance on earth; but of life in the soul, viewed as the source of consciousness, thought, desires, purposes, and acts, all tending to develope and form character, and fit the subject for blessedness or woe in the future world. In this view we can know what life is, what are the means of its development, and how it may be so nurtured and trained on earth that it shall conduct us to everlasting life in heaven. I remark, then--
I. Life is INTERMINABLE it has no end. The principle on which it depends, whatever it be, is beyond the reach of man or angel, or any other being, but God who made us living souls. The life of the body can be destroyed, for it depends on a material organization; and this may be so deranged and disturbed in its functions, that the life which depends upon it shall cease to be. But the life of the soul is independent of matter. It is not the result of any material mechanism, or of any nice adjustment of particles of matter, as of nerves and other finer portions of the body. It has its seat in the inner spirit; in that thinking, intelligent, conscious principle, which we call the soul, and which the Bible assures us, as does sound philosophy, survives the dissolution of the body and is to live forever. The vital spark is kindled; it must burn on forever. Have you ever asked what and where you shall be ten thousand years hence?
II. Life is DISCIPLINARY. By which I mean that in the present world we are subjected to various influences, adapted and designed to exercise the vital principle within us; to elicit and draw forth its powers, and thus form and fix its character for a future state of being. All the ills we endure and the blessings we enjoy; the sicknesses, disappointments, sorrows, that come upon us, together with the various blessings and privileges of our condition--all are to be regarded as disciplinary. They are the means appointed byProvidence to wake up and call into action the living principle within us; to make us, as it were, conscious of life and ever solicitous to be found in an attitude to be rightly affected by all the various influences that act upon us. Now, this view of life as disciplinary, is of the greatest practical importance. It changes the whole aspect and bearing of things around us. It sheds light upon a thousand facts and occurrences which would otherwise be entirely mysterious. It gives a new and significant view of the dealings of Providence with us in this world, and attaches a meaning and an importance to the events of every day, which they would not otherwise possess.
III. Life is PROBATIONARY. By this is meant, we are now living and acting with reference to a future state of retribution. We are not only subjected to discipline and training in this world, but results are to follow in the world to come. The life that now is, is preparatory to a life in the state beyond the grave; and the life we are to live hereafter is to receive its character and destiny from the life we are now living on the earth. Every word and every act is a seed for eternity, and daily, as our time on earth is hastening to its close, we are laying up treasures of immortal joy in heaven, or preparing for ourselves a cup of woe in the world of despair. I may add, in this connection, that life passed by us in this state of discipline and probation, acquires of necessity a fixed and permanent character. Neutrality is here impossible. As no one can destroy the vital principle which the Creator has implanted in his bosom, so no one can stop its feeling, thinking, acting.
IV. It might perhaps seem commonplace and trite to say THAT LIFE, VIEWED AS A PERIOD OF CONTINUANCE ON EARTH, IS ENCOMPASSED WITH INNUMERABLE ILLS, AND IS EXCEEDINGLY UNSATISFYING, AS WELL AS VERY SHORT AND UNCERTAIN. Yet these are facts which lose none of their importance by their triteness, and they demand to be seriously considered by us, if we would form a just estimate of life, and train it, in a right manner, for a future state of being. Why is it, that life, in the present state, is so unsatisfying, so subject to changes, disappointments, and trials: One great reason is to make us realize that this is not our home, not the place of our rest, but of our discipline and training, the place of our tarrying for a night as strangers, and then pass on to our future abode.
1. How infinitely we are indebted to our Lord Jesus Christ for marking out to us the way, and furnishing us with the means whereby our life may be rendered immortally blessed.
2. Our subject teaches us how we may make a long life even of a short one. Life, in its proper sense, is not mere existence. A stone has existence. It is not mere animation; for a tree has animation, and so has an oyster and an ox. But neither has life understanding by life, the vital principle of a living intelligent soul. Nor has such a soul life, any further than its living energies are brought out in action, and its existence is filled up with thought, and feeling, and with deeds and fruits of useful living. Life, says Fuller, is to be measured by action, not by time; a man may die old at thirty, and young at eighty; the one lives after death, the other perished before he died.
3. Our subject is fitted to show us how serious and how important to us are the daily events of life--the influences which act upon us in the various circles in which we are called to move. These are the instrumental means employed by Providence for our discipline and training; the development of our life, the formation of our character, the fixing of our state in eternity.
4. Life in respect to each of us is every day becoming more and more serious and impressive in its responsibilities and prospects. It is so, because its powers are being more fully developed, and its character more and more permanently fixed. It is so, because the period of discipline and probation is fast drawing to a close, and results are thrown forward to greet us on our entering into eternity with welcomes of joy or signals of woe. It is so, in fine, because every day we live bears us nearer and still nearer to that awful point in our history, a point unknown to us, when the great work of preparation for eternity will be ended, and we shall each one take our place among the redeemed in glory, heirs of immortal life, or with the lost in despair, children of wrath. With what serious concern, then, does it become every one of us to review our past course in life and inquire, whither it has been conducting us; for what state we have been preparing, during the time we have spent on earth. (J. Haines, D. D.)
The wondrous constitution of man
I. THAT THE CREATION OF MAN PRESENTS US WITH THE MOST COMPLEX AND MYSTERIOUS NATURE IN THE UNIVERSE OF GOD. Man is a link between the material and the spiritual--the visible and the invisible--the temporal and the eternal. His is a compound nature. And to obtain a sufficiently enlarged view of that nature, we must reduce it to its primary elements. The creation of matter we resolve into the will and power of God. That which was created could not be eternal. It is a result--an effect. On the mode of this creation we touch not. How “things which are seen were not made of things which do appear”--in other words, how something was produced out of nothing, we can never hope to comprehend. But matter once brought into existence, almost equally marvellous is its organization into distinct living forms. Man was formed of the dust of the ground. Through what process of refinement the different particles which compose the human body passed previous to their combination and union we know not. But this process perfected, each atom was so arranged and disposed, and placed under such laws of affinity and mutual action, as to bring out that great unity, to which we give the name of--body. Every part was contrived with the most exquisite skill, and wrought into the most curious texture. Nothing can be conceived which would surpass the workmanship and elegance of this fabric. It sets forth preeminently the Divine art--the art of God in fitting up a structure including within itself so many miracles. Of the nature of the soul we are wholly ignorant. What was the emanation which came forth from the creating Spirit, and which raised man from a mere material and sensitive existence into a spiritual, intelligent, and immortal being, it is vain to conjecture. We can speak only of the properties of mind. It is not material; but something added to matter, and so essentially spiritual as to be distinct from matter and separable. It is also essentially vital. The body lives, and so long as the soul inhabits it, it will continue to live. But it does not so live that it must always live, which is the case with mind; and of which we cannot conceive but as of a vital, living thing. It has begun to exist, and it cannot cease to exist. Yet it is not enough that man should become a living soul, and that his life should run out into immortality. To subserve the great end of his creation he must have intelligence. With the breath of life came the power of thought. Nor is this all. A being endowed with mind, and to whose thoughts there is no limit--who by a single effort can grasp the past, the present, and the future--the whole universe--and if there be any limit to the universe, more than the universe itself--could not be left without the freedom of choice. To thought we must add volition. This freedom of will rendered him capable at once of duty and of happiness. Without liberty to choose his course of action, he would have been laid under no obligation; while the filling up of imposed obligation was followed by corresponding joy and felicity. The power to choose involved the power to act. Having made his election, nothing interfered to prevent him carrying his purposes into execution. He who gave him a self-determining power, gave him at the same time dominion over every inward operation and every outward action. This vital, thinking, self-active, and self-controlling spirit, admits of no decay. Whatever may be the changes incident to matter, mind remains the same. The only method by which this vital spirit could be reduced would be by an act of annihilation. Annihilation! It enters not into the government of God. We believe in the immortality of the soul. This is but the dawn of its existence. It will survive death, and hold on its course when that of nature is ended. There is another and perhaps the most striking peculiarity to notice in the creation of man. We refer to the mysterious union of this living soul with the corporeal frame, so close and intimate, that these two thus united are absolutely necessary to make up the one compound being--Man. Neither would of itself be sufficient. The body might be perfect in every part and property, but without the vital spirit it would be an inert mass, or at the best a mere animal nature. The soul might be endowed with every possible attribute and excellence, but denied “an earthly house” in which to reside, it would rise to the rank and order of angelic existence. And yet close as is the union between these two there is no confounding of their nature. The body does not so absorb the spirit as by incorporation to make it part of itself. Nor is the soul so linked to the body that it cannot exist and act separately from it. Mysterious is the bond of union; but the two natures are perfectly distinct.
II. THAT THE NATURE WITH WHICH MAN WAS CREATED IS SUSCEPTIBLE OF THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE RELATIONS, ACTIVITY, AND ENJOYMENT. This nature touches on the extremes of the universe--matter and mind. We cannot go lower; and higher we cannot ascend. On the one hand, we are allied to the dust of the ground; on the other, we are united to the one uncreated and eternal Spirit When God breathed into man the breath of life, and man became a living soul, He designed that this soul should be held in contact with universal spirit. Its properties and powers eminently qualify it for such association and union. And with spiritual existences it is forever to live and act. Let us rise into those regions of light where are countless thousands of the redeemed. In what close affinity are they with the firstborn sons of God. They occupy no lower ground. They exhibit no inferior nature. Angels in all their ascending orders acknowledge them as their compeers--their equals. To them even the seraphim give place before the throne.God takes them nearer to Himself. In His presence they dwell. Of His glory they partake. With Him they commune. This perfects our idea of the soul’s relation; and proclaims the original design of the Eternal in the creation of man. In making him a living soul, He raised him to the highest possible relation in the universe. In taking him into closer union with Himself, He gave him the preeminence over every other species of created existence. This relation involves corresponding service. Where there is life there is motion. If the soul be essentially vital, it must be essentially active, and this activity will be in the degree of the life. In assigning to man this high relation, and endowing him with this unending activity, it is without controversy that the Creator had in view the most benevolent design. Endowed with the faculty of thought, here was a field over which he might travel with ever-rising interest, and enlarged discovery. But man was alone. There was no one to share his thoughts or partake his joys. The mighty God at once let Himself down to the necessities of His creature. In the cool of each day He appeared in the garden and communed with our first father. The thoughts and lessons which man had gathered from contemplation, he was taught and encouraged to express to his Creator, while his heart throbbed high with gratitude and love. Pure in the last recesses of his mind, and filled with the sublimest conceptions of his Maker and his God, his was no vulgar enjoyment. In the nearest attitude to the great Spirit of life, he was invited to the most intimate and familiar communion. It was no deputed representative of the Godhead with whom he enjoyed fellowship. He walked with God. His desires ran out infinitely beyond all that is created and finite. Unlimited in extent, and existing with the existence of mind itself, they must terminate on infinite fulness.
III. THAT THE LAW UNDER WHICH MAN WAS ORIGINALLY PLACED WAS ONE OF INFINITE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND GOODNESS. A state of trial is one of the conditions of all created existence. Give to the creature whatever freedom we may--let him be ever so conscious of his own subjective independence as a free agent--it was not possible that he should be ignorant of the fact that there is one Supreme Will, to which every other will must be subordinate. The moment that he lost sight of this primordial truth, he was in danger of entrenching on the Divine prerogative, and of losing both his life and his happiness. While due regard was had to the freedom of his will, yet everything within him and around him was calling up the fact of his dependence. This dependence was the condition of his being; but the law to which he was called to conform involved nothing above his capacity or power of fulfilling. It made probation easy. He might have stood, and thus maintained his original rectitude. Continual integrity was not more impossible than moral failure. As the subject of inward righteousness, he was simply called to conform to the law of his being. (R. Ferguson, LL. D.)
Man became a living soul
Man’s higher nature
I. THEN MAN IS SOMETHING MORE THAN PHYSICAL ORGANIZATION. Man is not merely dust, nor merely body; he is also a living soul. His bodily organization is not the seat of thought, emotion, volition, and immortality; these are evoked by the inspiration of the Almighty. From this text we learn that the soul of man was not generated with, but that it was subsequently inbreathed by God into his body. We cannot admit the teaching of some, that the soul of man is a part of God; this is little better than blasphemy. It is only a Divine gift. The gift is priceless. It is responsible.
II. THEN MAN SHOULD CULTIVATE A MORAL CHARACTER, PURSUE EMPLOYMENTS, AND ANTICIPATE A DESTINY COMMENSURATE WITH THIS DIVINE INSPIRATION. Men gifted with immortal souls should endeavour to bring them into harmony with their Author and Giver, to make them pure as He is pure, and benevolent as He is benevolent; they should never be degraded by sin. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Life in man
Rowland Hill once conversed with a celebrated sculptor, who had been hewing out a block of marble to represent that great patriot, Lord Chatham. “There,” said the sculptor, “is not that a fine form?” “Now, sir,” said Mr. Hill, “can you put life into it? else, with all its beauty, it is still but a block of marble.” God put life into His creation, and man became a living soul. Christ puts new life into dead men. (Bishop Harvey Goodwin.)
The soul and its capacities
I. First, among the properties of the soul, consider ITS CAPACITY OF ENJOYMENT AND ITS CAPACITY OF SUFFERING. I could appeal on this point to the experience of everyone who has lived but a few years in this fallen world: few have done so who cannot bear inward witness of what the soul is capable of suffering. How acute is the sense of disappointed hope; how sad the anticipation of expected evil: how bitter the feeling of desire, long indulged, and still deferred, making the heart sick: how intense are the pangs of sorrow; how intolerable the agony of remorse! I will only remind you that God, who in His justice remembers mercy, seldom dispenses in this world unmixed suffering. To the wicked, even, there is commonly some hope of relief, which mitigates the sense of suffering; to the righteous there is always an alleviation. Think, then, what must be the weight of unmitigated suffering, aggravated by the assurance that it must endure forever. In proportion to the capacity of suffering in the soul is also its capacity of enjoyment. We have some knowledge of this likewise. We can conceive the joy by which the heart of Jacob was elated when his sons “told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the waggons.” We can conceive the feelings of David when he found himself seated upon the throne of Israel, and the promise made unto his children after him, and the natural satisfaction arising from greatness and prosperity was enhanced by the spiritual gratification of the consciousness of Divine favour. How intense again must have been the delight of the aged Simeon when the sight which he had been so long expecting was granted to him, and it was revealed to him that the child which his parents were now presenting in the temple was indeed the promised Saviour. But as in this preparatory world, sorrow comes attended with mitigation, so there is always some drawback to our joy. Even it the joy itself were perfect, there is fear it would be short-lived; and He that gave may see fit to take away. There will be no such diminution of the eternal enjoyment prepared for the righteous in His heavenly kingdom: nothing to disturb the happiness of those who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
II. Consider another capacity of the soul--ITS CAPACITY OF GOODNESS AND OF WICKEDNESS. I speak, you will observe, not of any goodness which it naturally has, but of that of which it is capable. The natural imagination of man’s heart is evil, and that continually, since he fell from the innocency in which he was created. The soul, however, which was created in the image of God, and which has lost that likeness, is capable of having that image restored. It is capable of much which our reason tells us is good in itself, and which Scripture tells us is pleasing in the sight of God. How beautiful is the conduct of Abraham, as recorded in Genesis 13:1-18, when the land in which they were dwelling grew too strait for himself and his nephew Lot, and it became needful that they should separate. How admirable is the affection of Moses towards the Israelites, and the disinterestedness with which he entreats God to spare them. Look at the piety of Daniel, who, though he knew the writing was issued which should condemn him before an earthly tribunal, yet, “his window being opened in his chamber before Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and he prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.” Once more, admire the spirit of the martyr Stephen, who returned blessing for cursing, and kneeled down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” The soul, then, is capable of goodness; the fruits of the Spirit may grow upon it, which are love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness. There is less need of proving that it is capable of wickedness; for “from within, out of the heart, proceed evil thoughts, adultery, murder, fornication, theft, false witness, blasphemy; and these defile the soul”; they have defiled it ever since the time that Adam transgressed the command of God, and brought sin into the world. What envy, hatred, and malice were in the heart of Cain, when he rose up against his brother Abel and slew him; or of Esau, who “hated Jacob, because of the blessing wherewith his father had blessed him”: “And Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.” Look at the history of Pharaoh, one while entreating and repenting, and promising obedience, and then repenting of his repentance, and defying the power of God. Or take the case of Judas, daily hearing the word of righteousness--words such as never man spake, doctrines at which the people were astonished--yet not subdued, not converted, cherishing a secret sin, indulging covetousness, and appropriating to his own use what was designed for the poor.
III. Let me now proceed to remind you, in the third place, THAT BETWEEN THIS WICKEDNESS AND MISERY, AS ALSO BETWEEN GOODNESS AND HAPPINESS, GOD HAS APPOINTED AN INSEPARABLE CONNECTION. “The righteous shall go into life eternal; into that world where is fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore”; and where “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away; but the unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” We do not stop to enter into the question of what is meant by this “second death”: whether it speaks of actual material fire, or whether the fire be figurative, it expresses the greatest imaginable misery. But this we know, that the unrestrained wickedness of the unrenewed heart leads on to misery in the Way of natural consequence: it needs not the idea of material fire to form an addition to bodily anguish. The souls of the wicked, as well as of the good, are immortal; separated, indeed, into their respective folds, as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats, but still continuing immortal. (Bishop Sumner.)
The soul of man
I. THE WORTH AND EXCELLENCE OF THE SOUL. Taught by--
1. Our own experience. It combines, compares, and reasons on all subjects (Psalms 104:1-35 and Job 38:1-41).
2. By observation.
3. By Scripture.
II. THE WISDOM OF CARING FOR ITS SALVATION. (Alexander Shanks.)
1. Its nature and property. “Nephesh,” to breathe or respire. Not that the breath is the soul, but it denotes the manner of its infusion, and the means of its continuation. It is spiritual in essence. The Chaldee renders it a sparkling soul, Speech only belongs to man.
2. Its descent and original. It is not a result from matter, but from the inspiration of God (John 3:6). Man’s spirit comes from the Father of spirits.
3. Its manner of infusion into the body. By the same breath which gave it. Augustine says, “It is created in the infusion, and it is infused in the creation.”
4. The bond that unites the soul with the body. The breath of his nostrils. It is a mystery to see heaven and earth united in one person; dust and immortal spirit clasping each other with tender love. What a noble guest to take up residence within mean walls of flesh and blood! That union comes in with the breath of the nostrils, and so soon as that breath departs, it departs also. All the rich elixirs and condiments in the world will not avail to make it stay one minute longer after the breath departs. One puff of breath will carry away the wisest, holiest, and best soul that ever inhabited a human body (Psalms 104:19; Job 17:1). (John Flavel.)
On the origin, nature, and dignity of man
It is said that above the door of the celebrated temple of Apollo at Delphi there was a Greek inscription, the whole of which consisted in a simple monosyllable of two letters signifying THOU ART, which is not only a proper, but a peculiar title of God, because He alone is being, the ever-existing One, and is derived from the Hebrew name Jehovah; but it had nothing to do with the heathen god, for I am persuaded that the evil one was there worshipped under the name of Apollo. His ambition was to be like the Most High, and therefore he assumed God’s name; but he was a murderer from the beginning, and also a thief and a robber. It is also said, that on the same temple this often repeated admonition was written, “Know thyself,” which, being connected with the preceding, reminded man of his frail and mortal nature. But without Divine revelation man could never have been in possession of these Divine truths. Hence we learn the wonderful condescension of God. After the Lord for His own pleasure called man into existence, He revealed Himself to him.
I. Concerning THE ORIGIN OF MAN, various and absurd opinions have been put forth by men, who presume to be wiser than the inspired writers. Some have asserted, but devoid of all reason, that men have existed from eternity, or existed by an infinite succession of beings; and others have as absurdly asserted, that the first man and woman, or several pairs, sprang into being from some spontaneous action of the earth, or chance combination of the natural elements, independent of any adequate power or designing cause. But this is opposed to the clearest deductions of reason, and involves impossibilities. Now, although men generally admit the absurdity of the notion that man has existed from eternity, and that he came into being by the spontaneous action of the earth or elements, independent of a designing cause, yet many assert that God in the beginning created a plurality of pairs, from whence arises the great difference in complexion and form which distinguishes the several races of mankind. This idea seems very plausible; but those who are most competent to pronounce an opinion on comparative anatomy have declared that the whole race of mankind has sprung from one original pair--one man and one woman, and on physiological grounds agree with the Mosaic account.
II. HIS NATURE, AND THE REASON OF HIS NAME. Formed of dust; therefore suitably called Adam or earth.
III. We shall now consider THE DIGNITY, MORAL EXCELLENCE, AND IMMORTALITY OF MAN, as be came out of the hands of God.
1. In the creation of matter, and bringing it into a harmony of spheres, the fiat of the Almighty was sufficient. He merely said, “Let there be light,” and light was, as a necessary consequence; but in the creation of man it was otherwise. The Holy Ones reasoned together, which indicates the dignity and moral excellence of the being about to be called into existence. That Divine consultation was significant of the God-like nature of man.
2. But one of the chief features in man, as he came out of his Creator’s hand (if anything can be chief where all is perfect), was, that he derived immediately from God the breath of life; for God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,” and he became a living, or, as some of the Hebrew paraphrasts have it, a rational, soul. His spirit partook of the immortality of its Divine author, and was destined to live forever; and therefore the tree of life was placed in the midst of the garden, the virtue of which was such, that if he partook thereof, he would live forever. (A. Jones.)
The life of living soul
1. We are, as to the outward man, mere dust of the ground. Is not this plain enough from experience? Does not the food that maintains our bodies come directly from plants, or indirectly from them, through the beasts that feed upon them? And do not those plants draw all their support from the ground?
2. We have in this living body passions and affections common with the brute creation. And too many act as if they had nothing more, as if they had only to exercise their brutal appetites, eat and drink, and tyrannize over the poor brute creation, as its merciless kings, and then like them to die. How many have passed through this world from the womb to the grave, with no higher exercise of their faculties, and with a much more brutal one of their appetites, than a dog or an elephant?
3. But we are living souls. God has given unto us reason and not instinct, free agency and not mere necessity. We are rational, and therefore accountable beings. We are servants of a heavenly Master, sons of a heavenly Father, to whom we have to render faithful service and affectionate obedience. We have a reckoning to render of the manner in which we have employed our bodies, our appetites, our faculties. (R. W.Evans, B. D.)
Excellency of She soul of man
When God Almighty bad in six days made that common dial of the world, the light; that storehouse of His justice and His mercy, the firmament; that ferry of the world, the sea; man’s work house, the earth; chariots of light, the sun and moon; the airy choristers, the fowls; and man’s servants, the beasts; yet had He one more excellent piece to be made, and that was man, a microcosm, even an abstract of the whole, to whom, having fashioned a body, proceeding by degrees of perfection, He lastly created a soul. And as the family of Matri was singled out of the tribe of Benjamin, and Saul out of the family of Matri, being higher than the rest by the shoulders upwards, so is the soul singled out from the other creatures, far surpassing them all in excellency, whether we consider the efficient cause of its creation, Elohim, the blessed Trinity, being then in consultation; or the material cause, a quinta essentia, noble and Divine substance, more excellent than the heavens; or the cause formal, made after the image of God Himself; or, lastly, the cause final, that it might be the temple of God and the habitation of His blessed Spirit. (J. Spencer.)
A living soul in man
About forty-five years ago a funeral was passing through the streets of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It was the burial procession of John Hall Mason, the son of the eminent Dr. Mason, President of Dickinson College, one of the most powerful and eloquent preachers in America. The son was distinguished for his piety and talents, and his death had cast a gloom over many hearts. Many gathered to the funeral, from far and near, and especially young men. After the services at the house had been performed, and the pallbearers had taken up the bier, a great concourse obstructed the entrance, and great confusion and noise ensued. The bereaved doctor, observing the difficulty, and following closely the pall bearers, exclaimed in solemn sepulchral tones: “Tread lightly, young men! tread lightly! You bear the temple of the Holy Ghost.” These sentiments, as though indited by the Holy Spirit, acted like an electric shock; the crowd fell back and made the passage way clear. Through the influence of these words a most powerful revival of religion sprung up, and swept through the college, and extended over the town.
Men to set a high value upon their souls
When Praxiteles, a cunning painter, had promised unto Phryne one of the choicest pieces in his shop, she, not knowing which was the best, began to think upon some plot whereby to make him to discover his judgment which of them was the piece indeed, and suborned one of his servants to tell his master (being then in the market, selling his pictures) that his house was on fire and a great part of it burnt down to the ground. Praxiteles, hearing this, presently demanded of his servant if the “Satyr and Cupid” were safe, whereby Phryne, standing by, discovered which was the best picture in the shop. And shall a silly painter set so high an esteem upon a poor, base picture, the slubbered (imperfect) work of his own hands, and shall not we much more value the soul, that is of an immortal being, the most precious piece that ever God made, the perfect pattern and image of Himself. Let riches, honour, and all go, if nothing but this escape the fire, it is sufficient. (J. Spencer.)
Man has a soul
Some time ago the Rev. James Armstrong preached at Harmony, near the Wabash, when a doctor of that place, a professed Deist, called on his associates to accompany him while he attacked the Methodists, as he said. At first he asked Mr. Armstrong if he followed preaching to save souls. He answered in the affirmative. He then asked Mr. Armstrong if he ever saw a soul. “No.” If he ever heard a soul. “No.” If he ever tasted a soul, “No.” If he ever smelled a soul. “No.” If he ever felt a soul. “Yes, thank God!” said Mr. Armstrong. “Well,” said the doctor, “there are four of the five senses against one that there is a soul.” Mr. Armstrong then asked the gentleman if he was a doctor of medicine; and he also answered in the affirmative° He then asked the doctor if he ever saw a pain. “No.” If he ever heard a pain. “No.” If he ever tasted a pain. “No.” If he ever smelled a pain. “No.” If he ever felt a pain. “Yes.” Mr. Armstrong then said, “There are also four senses against one to evidence that there is a pain; yet, sir, you know that there is a pain, and I know there is a soul.” The doctor appeared confounded, and walked off. (Whitecross.)
The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden
The garden of Eden
IN THIS GARDEN PROVISION WAS MADE FOR THE HAPPINESS OF MAN.
1. The garden was beautiful.
2. The garden was fruitful.
3. The garden was well watered.
II. IN THIS GARDEN PROVISION WAS MADE FOR THE DAILY OCCUPATION OF MAN.
1. Work is the law of man’s being.
2. Work is the benediction of man’s being. Work makes men happy. Indolence is misery. Work is the truest blessing we have. It occupies our time. It keeps from mischief. It supplies our temporal wants. It enriches society. It wins the approval of God.
III. IN THIS GARDEN PROVISION WAS MADE FOR THE SPIRITUAL OBEDIENCE OF MAN.
1. God gave man a command to obey.
2. God annexed a penalty in the ease of disobedience.
The two paradises
I. Compare the PLACES. The second is superior to the first.
1. In respect to its elements. What was dust in the first paradise was gold in the second.
2. Of its extent. The first paradise was the corner of a small planet; the second is a universe of glory in which nations dwell, and whose limits angels know not.
3. Of its beauty.
II. Compare the INHABITANTS of the two paradises. The inhabitants of the second are superior to those of the first.
1. In physical nature.
2. In employment. The employment of heaven will relate to beings rather than to things. The sphere of activity will be more amongst souls than flowers. Will call into exercise loftier faculties; will tend more to the glory of God.
3. In rank.
4. In freedom.
5. In security. Adam was liable to temptation and evil. In the second paradise is immunity from peril. 6, In vision of God. In the first paradise God walked amid the trees of the garden. Adam realizes the overshadowing Presence. The inhabitants of the second paradise shall enjoy that Presence more perfectly.
Man’s life in Eden
I. Our first parents are discovered in a state of innocence, beauty, and blessedness, which is broken up utterly by the transgression of the Divine command.
II. This narrative presents to us the Father seeking the sinful child with blended righteousness and tenderness, assuring him of help to bear the burden which righteousness had imposed on transgression, and of redemption out of the spiritual death, which was the fruit of sin.
III. God not only, father like, made wise disposition for the correction of His child, but He east in with His child’s lot of toil and suffering His own sympathy and hope; He made Himself a partaker in man’s new experience of pain, and, that He might destroy sin, linked the sufferer by a great promise to Himself. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)
The garden of Eden
I. A SCENE OF BEAUTY.
II. A SPHERE OF WORK.
III. AN ABODE OF INNOCENCE.
IV. A HOME OF HAPPINESS.
V. A PLACE OF PROBATION.
1. Man in his original condition was immortal.
2. Man’s immortality was suspended on his personal obedience.
3. Adam acted in the garden as a public person, or as the representative of the race. (Anon.)
Adam in Eden
The text teaches several things concerning God.
I. HIS POWER.
1. Physical. The might involved in the creation and maintenance of the universe. As much power displayed in preservation of universe as in its creation.
2. Intellectual. The thought and intelligence involved in the works of nature; the unity of design, harmony of motion, and proportion of parts visible everywhere, from the majesty of revolving worlds to the structure and polish of an insect’s wing, all attest the work and power of a boundless intelligence.
II. HIS WISDOM.
1. We see God’s wisdom here in the order of events.
2. In providing so bountifully for the wants of man, both present and future.
III. HIS GOODNESS.
1. In providing a home for man.
2. God’s goodness is also seen in the size of Adam’s home. “A garden.” Why not something larger? God’s idea of human vocation is not distribution, but concentration. Not farming a township, but tilling a garden. No man can be a gardener, a doctor, a lawyer, a banker, and a preacher, and succeed in either.
3. In putting him in possession of his new home. “There He put the man.” I am pleased to find this statement, especially as Adam got into trouble so soon afterwards. If the Lord had only pointed out the garden, and left Adam to find it, he might have doubted, after the Fall, whether he had not gotten into the wrong place, and whether such a calamity could have befallen him in a God-selected residence. Learn, here, that however clearly we may be able to trace the Divine hand in bringing us into any position or calling, we may there yield to the tempter, and fall. That God can build no Eden this side the gates of glory which man cannot curse and wither, by listening to the suggestions of the devil.
4. In providing a wife for Adam. “Brought her unto him.” The composition of the first divinely ordained home was husband and wife. (T. Kelly.)
Genesis of Eden
I. THE TOPOGRAPHICAL PROBLEM. All that we can determine at present is this: Eden lay to the east of the venerable witness of creation’s panorama, somewhere in the neighbourhood of the Tigris and the Euphrates. And history strikingly confirms the chronicle of the hoary witness. Those confessedly competent to discuss such questions agree that the cradle of mankind is to be looked for somewhere in the country of the Euphrates. Civilization has generally, with comparatively unimportant exceptions, moved from east to west. Who knows but that we, the latest born of the nations, with the Continental railways and Pacific steamships in our grasp, are God’s chosen instruments in carrying the glad tidings ever and ever westward, till, having crossed China, we reach again the cradle of humanity, and reinaugurate the lost paradise on the very spot where our inspired Seer caught glimpse of the tree of life? The truth, however, is, the exact site of Eden will probably never be discovered--at least, till the day when the voice of Him who was wont to walk in the garden in the evening breeze (Genesis 3:8) is again heard on earth.
II. And now let us attend to some of THE LESSONS OF THE STORY.
1. And, first, the birth of industry. Jehovah God took the man He had formed, and put him in the Garden of Eden, to till it, and to keep it.
(a) the soul’s sake;
(b) his own sake;
(c) God’s sake.
2. The birth of language.
3. The birth of immortality. “The tree of life.”
4. The birth of probation.
5. The Eden of the soul.
6. The heavenly Eden. (G. D. Boardman.)
Paradise held; or, man’s innocency
I. ADAM’S HOME. A pleasant, fruitful garden. Beautiful flowers; green meadows; rivers and brooks; woods and coppices.
II. ADAM’S WORK. Two fold; to till and to keep the garden--work and watchfulness. Something to call out vigilance as well as diligence.
III. ADAM’S WIFE. Loving companionship and mutual help. How glad Adam must have been! LESSONS: The teacher can point out how this picture of the first man and woman reminds us of--. . (W. S. Smith, B. D.)
Love of flowers a relic of life in Eden
Waking up to conscious existence in the midst of a garden, it would seem as if man had not entirely forgotten the wonderful vision on which his eyes then opened. At least, there is no passion more general than the admiration of beautiful flowers. They kindle the rapture of infancy, and it is touching to see how over the first kingcups or daisies its tiny hand closes more eagerly than hereafter it will grasp silver coins or golden. The solitary blossom lights a lamp of quiet gladness in the poor man’s chamber, and in the palace of the prince, the marble of Canova and the canvas of Raffaelle are dimmed by the lordly exotic with its calyx of flame or its petals of snow. With these companions of our departed innocence we plait the bridal wreath, and, scattered on the coffin, or planted on the grave, there seems a hope of resurrection in their smile, a sympathy in their gentle decay. And whilst to the dullest gaze they speak a lively oracle, in their empyrean bloom and unearthly fragrance the pensive fancy recognizes some mysterious memory, and asks,--
“Have we been all at fault? Are we the sons
Of pilgrim sires who left their lovelier land?
And do we call inhospitable climes
By names they brought from home?”
(Dr. J. Hamilton.)
The chains of a river
A river has special charms for me--always arriving, always departing; softening the landscape, and completing the circle of the firmament; rich with manifold reflections, and eloquent with the sad yet soothing minor in which all Nature speaks in her gentlest moods. I love to tarry by the riverside, to look, to listen, to wonder, and to feel the pleasant unrest of constant expectation. Standing by a river, one seems to be on the edge of another world--life, motion, music--signs that tell of speed, gliding and darting, that look as if activity had solved the mystery of industrious repose; breaking bubbles that hint at something of incompleteness and disappointment; occasional floodings and rushings that tell of power under control,--all are seen in that flowing world. (J. Parker, D.D.)
Man’s life in Paradise
I. THE FIRST INSTITUTION FOR PARADISE AND FOR MAN IN PARADISE, WAS A SABBATH DAY. Man, not yet fallen, needed the Sabbath to keep him to God--and all too little, as the event showed. Better to wait in Paradise with God and the Sabbath, than go to find a lower happiness elsewhere.
II. GOD, WHO TOLD MAN HOW TO SPEND THE SEVENTH DAY, TOLD HIM HOW TO SPEND THE OTHER SIX ALSO. One of the happinesses of paradise was employment--not idleness. And God Himself chose for Adam his occupation. He has clone so also for each of us. In the garden where God puts you He will find you work; some flowers to rear and cultivate; some human minds to which you may do good; some plantations of Divine grace which you may dress and water, and so be fellow worker with Him who gives the increase.
III. GOD PLACED MAN UNDER A LAW IN PARADISE. For our own sake, for our own true happiness, God would have us keep Him in our thoughts. The yielding up our own will to His has greater sweetness to the taste than pleasing ourselves ever had.
IV. GOD, THE AUTHOR OF ALL OUR HAPPINESS, IS THE IMMEDIATE FOUNDER OF DOMESTIC LIFE. Observe what exceeding honour He has put on the institution of marriage, making it one of the two original appointments which came immediately from Himself when He made our race. CONCLUSION: All these fair features are types or emblems of heavenly things. The Sabbath is a type of the heavenly rest; the employments, of the employments of heaven, and its peaceful industry; the law, of the law which the angels keep, happy in that their every thought and act is according to the motions of God’s good Spirit: and the marriage tie, of the spiritual union betwixt Christ and His Church. The picture of Paradise shall be reproduced in perfectness--in heaven. It should be seen, even here and now, in Christian families. (C. P. Eden, M. A.)
1. The Lord of it, God Himself, who planted it with His own hand.
2. The nature or kind of it; it was a garden.
3. The situation of it; it lay eastward.
4. The furniture or store of the garden.
5. The commodious situation of the garden, both for fruitfulness and delight, by the benefit of the liver that issued out of it.
6. The assigning over of the garden to the man.
The two paradises
We read of two paradises--one is described to us at the beginning of the Bible, and the other at the end of it (Revelation 22:1-5). The descriptions cannot be perused without leading the thoughts into a comparison and contrast of the one paradise with the other.
I. THE RIVERS. A river is a beautiful object. A river of clear water winding through a garden, meandering among flowers and trees, presents to the eye a lovely scene. And then, besides the beauty of a river or stream in itself, which may be called its direct contribution of beauty--much of the remaining attractions of the garden through which it passes is to be ascribed to it. The flowers and the trees are quickened and refreshed by it. Through its aid the flowers assume their fair and gorgeous array, and the trees spread out their noble arms, and are covered with foliage and fruit.
There was a river in the paradise of Eden. The benignant Creator did not leave the primeval home of man without the advantage and the ornament of a river. In the future paradise there is also a river. It is not behind the paradise of the past in this respect. Two things are to be noted concerning this river--the water of it, and the source of it. The water is pronounced to be “water of life, clear as crystal.” We cannot be at a loss, with the Bible in our hands, for the interpretation of this. “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God” (Psalms 46:4). What can that be but Jehovah’s love and faithfulness, which are always the consolation of the Church in times of trial and danger? “He leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psalms 23:2). “Thou shalt make them drink of the rivers of Thy pleasures” (Psalms 36:8). “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). The water of life is no other than the joys,and privileges, and blessings of that life eternal, which is the appointed portion of the redeemed. It corresponds to the new wine which Christ and His people drink together in the kingdom of God. And it is a river of water of life, because, as the flow of a river goes on continually, so shall there never be an end of the celestial happiness. The river, also, is pure, and clear as crystal, because the future state will be a state of unmixed felicity, and a state of glory without a cloud. The river proceeds “out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” In the throne of God and of the Lamb it has its source. The throne of God and of the Lamb. A single throne is meant, which is occupied by God and the Lamb. The lesson is, that the joys and blessings of the future paradise are to be traced, in the first place, to the sovereign love of God; and, in the second place, to the redeeming work of Christ. The river proceeds out of the Father’s throne. The whole life, and grace, and glory, which the Church ever arrives at, must be traced back through the far-reaching depths of eternity, and are connected with, and spring out of, that which was done in the beginning, when God, in the greatness, the freeness, and the sovereignty of His love, pronounced the decree of salvation. The throne of the Lamb alone could not have originated this river. The Lamb’s throne, by itself, originates nothing. The spring and first fountain of all our blessings, and of that river which shall gladden the paradise of God, is in the Father’s throne. But the throne, whence it comes, is not to be viewed as the Father’s throne merely. It is the throne of God and of the Lamb. Without that work of the Son, which the name of the Lamb suggests, and on account of which the Lamb has a seat on the Father’s throne--without what is done by Him as the second Man, the Servant of the Father, and our covenant head, neither grace nor glory could be ours. His death has made openings for its egress; and from His hands, and His feet, and His side, come the joyful waters that flow in the river of paradise.
II. THE TREES. The paradise of Eden was adorned and enriched with trees--“every tree,” we are told, “that is pleasant to the sight, and good forfood.” The beautiful trees and the noble stream together must have made an exquisite scene. And two trees there were, that stood in the midst of the garden (Genesis 2:9; Genesis 3:3), and excelled all the rest. They were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. These were sacramental trees, as their names denote. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a sign and seal of the condition of God’s covenant, and the tree of life was a sign and seal of its reward. The first paradise was remarkable for its trees. It had wonderful trees. The new paradise is not behind. It has many stately and fruitful trees. There are trees of righteousness without number, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. And there is, besides, one matchless tree, that is in the midst of that paradise of God (Revelation 2:7). There is the tree of life, which bears twelve manner of fruits, and yields her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. With its river of the water of life, and its tree of life, the paradise, on which the Church’s hope is fixed, is, indeed, a paradise of life. We need not say that the tree of life is Christ. He is the goodly tree in the midst of the garden. His Word, His gospel, His ordinances, are the means which the Holy Spirit employs on earth for quickening, regenerating, and sanctifying the people; and the enjoyment of Him is the chief ingredient, and the very essence, of the heavenly felicity.
III. THE CURSE. Of the second paradise, it is emphatically said, “There shall be no more curse.” The words, no doubt, have reference, in the way of contrast, to the state of things here and now, and are designed to intimate that the curse, which lies on the present creation, shall not be prolonged and carried onward from thin state to that. “There shall be no more curse.” The curse is here, but it shall not be there. There was curse in the first paradise. There was curse in it the moment its peaceful and happy bowers were invaded by the devil. The being on whom God’s curse alights is himself, in a sense, a curse. For this reason, even Christ, when He bore the curse as our substitute, is said to have been made a curse. There was curse in the garden of Eden, for there was sin in it. Not, indeed, at first. Man was blameless and holy for a season. But sin there was at last, and probably soon. And sin came not alone. Sin, by necessary consequence, brought the curse. There was curse in the garden of Eden; for there was shame, and there was slavish fear. When the privileged pair fell, they must have fig leaves to cover them; and they must hide among the trees from the presence of the Lord. There was curse in the garden of Eden; for there was death in it. “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” And die that day they did. The life of God went out of them. And there was curse in the garden of Eden: there was a curse which was spoken by the mouth of the Lord. The garden had been the scene where words of blessing and grace were wont to be uttered by the Creator, and where the holy affections of those whom He had made in His image found vent in glad songs of adoration and praise, accompanied, it may be, by a chorus of angels. But sin changed it all. It is gone--that paradise--gone forever. Let us not, however, despair. There is another paradise. He who planted the first has planted a second. He has planted a second, which is better than the first; and concerning which He has declared, that “there shall be no more curse.” “There shall be no more curse.” This implies that there shall be no more devil--no more Satanic intrusions. “There shall be no more curse.” The words imply that, in the second paradise, there shall be no more sin. As the heirs of glory appear within its precincts, they are found, one and all, to be perfectly sanctified. And they will never fall again. The crown of righteousness will never drop from their heads. Never again will they break God’s law, transgress His holy covenant, or be guilty of an act of distrust or rebellion. “There shall be no more curse.” The declaration implies that God shall no more pronounce any curse. It has been impossible for Him, hitherto, as the moral ruler of a sinful world, to dispense with the use of the curse. “There shall be no more curse”; and so there shall not be another expulsion from paradise.
IV. THE GENERAL STATE OF THE INHABITANTS.
1. The state of man was, in the old paradise, and will be in the new, a state of honourable service.
2. The state of man, in the garden of Eden, was a state of enjoyment and privilege. But the second paradise, also, will have enjoyment and privilege. It will have such enjoyment and privilege as to afford no occasion of regret for what has been lost. The old men, who had seen the temple of Solomon, wept when they thought how inferior must be the temple that was to succeed it. The contrast between the first and the second paradise will draw no such tears from our original progenitors. They shall have the richest social delights. They shall dwell together, the incorporated members of a family, having God the Father as their Father, God the Son as their Brother, and the Spirit of love resting on them all. They shall see God.
3. The pristine state of man was a state of power and glory. He was a king. The earth was His kingdom; the fish of the sea, the fowls of the air, and every living thing that moveth upon the earth, were His subjects. Believers will be kings. They are kings already by right. They are kings, who are not yet of age, and who must wait a little for the actual commencement of their reign. A kingdom is prepared for them. They shall be greater kings than Adam was, and have a wider and more illustrious dominion. Their kingdom shall be immoveable and undecaying. They shall be enthroned with Christ. They shall be crowned with righteousness and glory. And “they shall reign forever and ever.” (Andrew Gray.)
The garden of Eden
When we think of paradise, we think of it as the seat of delight. The name Eden authorizes us so to do. It signifies pleasure: and the idea of pleasure is inseparable from that of a garden, where man still seeks after lost happiness, and where, perhaps, a good man finds the nearest resemblance of it, which this world affords. The culture of a garden, as it was the first employment of man, so it is that to which the most eminent persons in different ages have retired, from the camp and the cabinet, to pass the interval between a life of action and a removal hence. When old Diocletian was invited from his retreat, to resume the purple which he had laid down some years before--“Ah,” said he, “could you but see those fruits and herbs of mine own raising at Salona, you would never talk to me of empire!” An accomplished statesman of our own country, who spent the latter part of his life in this manner, hath so well described the advantages of it, that it would be injustice to communicate his ideas in any other words but his own. “No other sort of abode,” says he, “seems to contribute so much, both to the tranquillity of mind and indolence of body. The sweetness of the air, the pleasantness of the smell, the verdure of the plants, the cleanness and lightness of food, the exercise of working or walking; but, above all, the exemption from care and solicitude, seem equally to favour and improve both contemplation and health, the enjoyment of sense and imagination, and thereby the quiet and ease both of body and mind. The garden has been the inclination of kings, and the choice of philosophers; the common favourite of public and private men; the pleasure of the greatest, and the care of the meanest; an employment and a possession, for which no man is too high, nor too low. If we believe the Scriptures,” concludes he, “we must allow that God Almighty esteemed the life of man in a garden the happiest He could give him, or else He would not have placed Adam in that of Eden. The garden of Eden had, doubtless, all the perfection it could receive from the hands of Him who ordained it to be the mansion of His favourite creature. We may reasonably presume it to have been the earth in miniature, and to have contained specimens of all natural productions, as they appeared, without blemish, in an unfallen world; and these disposed in admirable order, for the purposes intended. And it may be observed, that when, in after times, the penmen of the Scriptures have occasion to describe any remarkable degree of fertility and beauty, of grandeur and magnificence, they refer us to the garden of Eden (see Genesis 13:10; Joel 2:3; Ezekiel 31:3, etc.). Traditions and traces of this original garden seem to have gone forth into all the earth, though, as an elegant writer justly observes, “they must be expected to have grown fainter and fainter in every transfusion from one people to another. The Romans probably derived their notion of it, expressed in the gardens of Flora, from the Greeks, among whom this idea seems to have been shadowed out under the stories of the gardens of Alcinous. In Africa they had the gardens of the Hesperides, and in the East those of Adonis. The term of Horti Adonides was used by the ancients to signify gardens of pleasure, which answers strangely to the very name of paradise, or the garden of Eden.” In the writings of the poets, who have lavished all the powers of genius and the charms of verse upon the subject, these and the like counterfeit or secondary paradises, the copies of the true, will live and bloom, so long as the world itself shall endure. It hath been already suggested, that a garden is calculated no less for the improvement of the mind, than for the exercise of the body; and we cannot doubt but that peculiar care would be taken of that most important end in the disposition of the garden of Eden. Our first father differed from his descendants in this particular, that he was not to attain the use of his understanding by a gradual process from infancy, but came into being in full stature and vigour, of mind as well as body. He found creation likewise in its prime. It was morning with man and the world. As man was made for the contemplation of God here, and for the enjoyment of him hereafter, we cannot imagine that his knowledge would terminate on earth, though it took its rise there. Like the patriarch’s ladder, its foot was on earth, but its top, doubtless, reached to heaven. By it the mind ascended from the creatures to the Creator, and descended from the Creator to the creatures. It was the golden chain which connected matter and spirit, preserving a communication between the two worlds. That God had revealed and made Himself known to Adam, appears from the circumstances related, namely, that He took him, and put him into the garden of Eden; that He conversed with him, and communicated a law, to be by him observed; that He caused the creatures to come before him, and brought Eve to him. If there was, at the beginning, this familiar intercourse between Jehovah and Adam, and He vouchsafed to converse with him, as He afterward did with Moses, “as a man converseth with his friend,” there can be no reasonable doubt but that He instructed him, as far as was necessary, in the knowledge of his Maker, of his own spiritual and immortal part, of the adversary he had to encounter, of the consequences to which disobedience would subject him, and of those invisible glories, a participation of which was to be the reward of his obedience. Whenever the garden of Eden is mentioned in the Scriptures, it is called “the garden of God,” or “the garden of the Lord”--expressions which denote some peculiar designation of it to sacred purposes, some appropriation to God and His service, as is confessedly the case with many similar phrases; such as “house of God, altar of God, man of God,” and the like; all implying, that the persons and things spoken of were consecrated to Him, and set apart for a religious use. When it is said, “The Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it,” the words undoubtedly direct us to conceive of it as a place for the exercise of the body. The powers of the body and the faculties of the mind might be set to work at the same time, by the same objects. And it is well known that the words here used do as frequently denote mental as corporeal operations; and, under the idea of dressing and keeping the sacred garden, may fairly imply the cultivation and observation of such religious truths, as were pointed out by the external signs and sacraments, which paradise contained. When the prophets have occasion to foretell the great and marvellous change to be effected in the moral world, under the evangelical dispensation, they frequently borrow their ideas and expressions from the history of that garden, in which innocence and felicity once dwelt together, and which they represent as again springing up and blooming in the wilderness (see Isaiah 51:3; Isaiah 41:17; Isaiah 35:1). At the time appointed, these predictions received their accomplishment. Men “saw the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.” By the death and resurrection of the Redeemer, lost paradise was regained; and its inestimable blessings, wisdom, righteousness, and holiness, are now to be found and enjoyed in the Christian Church. But as men are still men, and not angels, those blessings are still represented and conveyed by sacramental symbols, analogous to the original ones in Eden. From the sacred font flows the water of life, to purify, to refresh, to comfort; “a river goes out of Eden, to water the garden,” and to “baptize all nations”; while the eucharist answers to the fruit of the tree of life: at the holy table, we may now “put forth our hands, and take, and eat, and live forever.” Let us go one step farther, and consider the state of things in the heavenly kingdom of our Lord. There, it is true, all figures and shadows, symbols and sacraments, shall be no more; because faith will there be lost in vision, and we shall “know even as we are known.” (Bishop Horne.)
Legends of Paradise among ancient nations
Paradise is no exclusive feature of the earliest history of the Hebrews; most of the ancient nations have similar narratives about a happy abode, which care does not approach, and which reechoes with the sounds of the purest bliss. The Greeks believed, that at an immense distance, beyond the pillars of Hercules, on the borders of the earth, were the islands of the blessed, the elysium, abounding in every charm of life, and the garden of the Hesperides, with their golden apples, guarded by an ever-watchful serpent (Laden). But still more analogous is the legend of the Hindoos, that in the sacred mountain Meru, which is perpetually clothed in the golden rays of the sun, and whose lofty summit reaches into heaven, no sinful man can exist; that it is guarded by dreadful dragons; that it is adorned with many celestial plants and trees, and is watered by four rivers, which thence separate, and flow to the four chief directions. Equally striking is the resemblance to the belief of the Persians, who suppose, that a region of bliss and delight, the town Eriene Vedsho or Heden, more beautiful than the whole rest of the world, traversed by a mighty river, was the original abode of the first men before they were tempted by Ahriman, in the shape of a serpent, to partake of the wonderful fruit of the forbidden tree Hem. And the books of the Chinese describe a garden near the gate of heaven where a perpetual zephyr breathes; it is irrigated by abundant springs, the noblest of which is the “fountain of life”; and abounds in delightful trees, one of which bears fruits which have the power of preserving and prolonging the existence of man. (M. M. Kalisch.)
The Eden of the soul
To every human being, not less than to Adam, God has given a garden to till and to keep: it is the garden within him. Alas! this garden of the soul is no longer an Eden. An enemy hath come and sown tares (Matthew 13:25). Instead of the fir tree has come up the thorn, and instead of the myrtle tree has come up the brier (Isaiah 55:13). Nevertheless, the capacity of paradise still lies latent within us all. Like seeds which have for ages lain buried beneath the soil of our primeval forests, there lie deep down in the subsoil of our moral natures the germs of giant spirit powers and experiences. Fallen as we are, we are capable of being redeemed, reinstated in the range of conscious sonship to the everlasting Father. In fact, this capacity for redemption is, on its human side, the basis of the possibility of Christ’s salvation. The Son of God came not to crush, but to save; not to destroy, but to restore; not to annihilate, but to transfigure. And when we let Him have His way in our hearts; when we let Him drive the ploughshare of His Spirit’s conviction, uprooting tares and thorns and all baleful weeds; when we let Him sow the good seed of the kingdom, which is the Word of God; when we let Him quicken it with the warmth of His breath, and water it with the dews of His grace, and hue it with the sunshine of His beauty: then does paradise lost become paradise found; then is brought to pass--oh, how gloriously!--the saying of the poet-prophet (Isaiah 35:1). (G. D. Boardman.)
The first garden
1. Situation of paradise that man lost, unknown. Landmarks obliterated by the Deluge. It may be sought, and found in every part of the world. “Thy presence makes my paradise,” etc.
2. God planted the first garden; our flowers are lineal descendants of Eden’s bright blossoms, as we are of the “grand old gardener”--Adam. Let the colours and perfumes of summer call that garden to mind.
3. Cultivate flowers of holiness, and fruits of godliness; possess the Rose of Sharon and the true Vine, and paradise will be regained. (J. C. Gray.)
Adam in Eden
I. THE FIRST MAN. Adam. “Of the earth, earthy.” His happiness Genesis 1:28). His moral dignity, likeness of God (Genesis 1:26; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). His mental greatness; named the animals, etc. (Genesis 2:20). His regal position (Genesis 1:28). His relation to other created intelligences (Hebrews 2:7-8). His great age; lived 930 years (Genesis 5:5). During 243 years a contemporary of Methuselah, who for 600 years was contemporary of his grandson Noah.
II. THE FIRST STEWARDSHIP. To dress and keep a garden. Lowly, healthful; needing diligence, forethought, etc. Mere office, however lofty, does not dignify; nor however humble, degrade. The great ancestor of the race, a gardener.
III. THE FIRST COMMAND. A command to remind man of his subordinate relation, his duty, etc. Only one, very simple and easy. In common life the breach of one often makes many injunctions needful. (J. C. Gray.)
I. THE FRUITFULNESS OF ONE PART OF THE EARTH ABOVE ANOTHER IS FROM GOD ALONE, AND MERELY AND ONLY BY HIS BLESSING.
II. THOUGH GOD HAVE PREPARED THE EARTH FOR MAN, YET HE CAN HAVE NO TITLE TO ANY MORE OF IT THAN GOD ALLOTS OUT OF IT FOR HIS HABITATION.
III. GOD IS PLEASED TO BESTOW UPON MEN LIBERALLY HIS BEST AND CHIEFEST BLESSINGS. (J. White, M. A.)
Not only did Adam work before the Fall; but also nature and nature’s God. From the particle of dust at our feet to man, the last stroke of God’s handiwork, all bear the impress of the law of labour. ‘The earth, as has been said, is one vast laboratory, where decomposition and reformation are constantly going on. The blast of nature’s furnace never ceases, and its fires never burn low. The lichen of the rock, and the oak of the forest, each works out the problem of its own existence. The earth, the air, and the water teem with busy life. The poet tells us that the joyous song of labour sounds out from the million-voiced earth, and the rolling spheres join the universal chorus! Therefore, labour is not, as Tapper expresses it, the curse on the sons of men in all their ways. Observations:--
I. AS GOD GIVES US ALL THINGS FREELY, SO WITHAL HE TAKES SPECIAL NOTICE OF ALL THAT HE BESTOWS UPON US.
II. EVERY PLANT ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH GROWS WHERE AND IN WHAT MANNER AND ORDER GOD APPOINTS IT.
III. GOD’S BOUNTY ABOUNDS UNTO MEN NOT ONLY TO THE SUPPLYING OF THEIR NECESSITIES, BUT ALSO FOR THEIR DELIGHT.
1. Let us then tender unto God, after the measure that we receive from Him, the most acceptable presents of our cheerful services, which that variety and abundance which we receive from His hand should provoke us Deuteronomy 28:47). Serving Him with enlarged hearts, and delighting to run the way of His commandments with the holy prophet Psalms 119:32).
2. It may warrant us the honest and moderate use of God’s blessings, even for delight: so we use them--
IV. IT IS USUAL WITH GOD TO MIX DELIGHT AND PLEASURE WITH USEFULNESS AND PROFIT IN ALL HIS BLESSINGS.
V. THE BEST AMONGST MEN AND MOST PERFECT HAVE NEED OF THE HELP OF OUTWARD MEANS TO QUICKEN AND STRENGTHEN THEM AND PUT THEM IN MIND OF THEIR DUTIES. Let no man neglect any outward means, public or private, as being--
Considering that the best of us know but in part (1 Corinthians 13:9), are subject to so many temptations, laden with a body of sin (Romans 7:24). By which we are continually assaulted, often foiled, and continually retarded in our coarse of obedience.
VI. SPIRITUAL AND RELIGIOUS DUTIES OUGHT TO BE REMEMBERED IN THE MIDST OF THE USE OF OUR EMPLOYMENTS ABOUT THE THINGS OF THIS LIFE.
VII. GOD’S COMMANDMENTS OUGHT TO BE STILL IN THE VIEW AND BEFORE THE FACE OF HIS CHILDREN. VIII. IT IS USUAL WITH GOD TO TEACH HIS CHILDREN BY THINGS OF ORDINARY AND COMMON USE. And this He cloth--
IX. GOD IS CONTENTED NOT ONLY TO DO US GOOD, BUT BESIDES TO ENGAGE HIMSELF THEREUNTO BY HIS WORD, RATIFIED BY HIS OWN SEAL.
X. BOTH THE CONTINUANCE OF PRESENT, AND HOPE OF FUTURE LIFE, AS THEY ARE GOD’S GIFT, SO THEY ARE ASSURED BY HIS PROMISE.
XI. ALL GOD’S PROMISES MUST BE UNDERSTOOD AND EMBRACED UNDER THE CONDITION OF THE PERFORMANCE OF OUR OBEDIENCE.
XII. GOOD AND EVIL ARE BOUNDED AND LIMITED ONLY BY THE WILL OF GOD. (J. White, M. A.)
The promise of life in the first covenant
I. We behold here the goodness and grace of God to man. Though the first covenant was a covenant of works there was, not withstanding, much grace displayed in it. Could that obedience of the first Adam which was perfect, have, strictly speaking, merited nothing for him, at the hand of God? What ignorance, then, what folly, what pride, does it argue in a sinner, to pretend that his performances, notwithstanding their acknowledged imperfections, merit for him not something merely, but eternal happiness!
2. If Adam in innocence was not to depend for happiness immediately on the goodness of God’s nature but on the promise of His covenant, how evidently does that sinner expose himself to woful disappointment who trusts to general, to uncovenanted mercy! Finally, was the first Adam’s state of innocence his state of trial? Then a state trial or probation is not, properly speaking, the state of man since his fall. But now, since he has failed in his obedience, and broken the covenant, his state of trial has issued in a state of condemnation. (J. Colquhoun, D. D.)
The tree of knowledge of good and evil
The two trees
I. THE TREE OF LIFE. This was a real tree, as real as any of the rest, and evidently placed there for like purposes with the rest. The only difference was, that it had peculiar virtues which the others had not. It was a life-giving or life-sustaining tree--a tree of which, so long as man should continue to eat, he should never die. Not that one eating of it could confer immortality; but the continuous use of it was intended for this. The link between soul and body was to be maintained by this tree. So long as he partook of this, that tie could not be broken.
II. THE TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL. Why may we not take this in the same literality of meaning as the former? Why may it not mean a tree, the fruit of which was fitted to nourish man’s intellectual and moral nature? How it did this I do not attempt to say. But we know so little of the actings of the body or the soul, that we cannot affirm it impossible. Nay, we see so much of the effects of the body upon the soul, both in sharpening and blunting the edge alike of intellect and conscience, that we may pronounce it not at all unlikely. We are only beginning to be aware of the exceeding delicacy of our mental and moral mechanism, and how easily that mechanism is injured or improved by the things which affect the body. A healthy body tends greatly to produce not only a healthy intellect, but a healthy conscience. I know that only one thing can really pacify the conscience--the all-cleansing Blood; but this I also know, that a diseased or enfeebled body operates oftentimes so sadly on the conscience as to prevent the healthy realization by it of that wondrous blood, thereby beclouding the whole soul; and there is nothing which Satan seems so completely to get hold of, and by means of it to rule the inner man, as a nervously diseased body. Cowper’s expression, “A mind well lodged, and masculine of course,” has in it more meaning than we have commonly attached to it. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
Of the sacraments of the covenant of works
I. It hath pleased the blessed and Almighty God, in every economy of His covenants, to confirm, by some sacred symbols, the certainty of His promises, and, at the same time, to remind man in covenant with Him of his duty: to these symbols ecclesiastical practice has long since given the name of sacraments: this was certainly appointed with an excellent design by the all-wise God. For--
1. What God has made known concerning His covenant, is, by this means, proposed to man’s more accurate consideration; since he is not only once and again instructed in the will of God by a heavenly oracle, but frequently and almost daily beholds with his eyes those things which by heaven are granted him as pleasures of the greatest blessings: what believers see with their eyes, usually sink deeper into the soul, and leave deeper impressions of themselves, than those only which they hear with their ears. Elegantly to this purpose says Herodotus, “men usually give less credit to the ears than to the eyes.”
2. These symbols also tend to confirm our faith. For, though nothing can be thought of that deserves more credit than the Word of God, yet, where God adds signs and seals to His infallible promises, He gives a two-fold foundation to our faith (Hebrews 6:17-18).
3. By means of this institution, a holy man does, by the sight, touch, and taste of the sacred symbols, attain to some sense of eternal blessings, and accustoms himself under the symbols, to a contemplation and foretaste of these things, to the plenary and immediate fruition of which he will, one time or other, be admitted without any outward signs.
4. The man has in these something continually to remind him of his duty: and as, from time to time, they present to his thoughts, and give a foretaste of his Creator, so at the same time they put him in mind of those very strong obligations, by which he is bound to his Covenant-God. And thus, they are both a bridle to restrain him from sin and a spur to quicken him cheerfully to run that holy race which he has so happily entered upon. (H. Witsius, D. D.)
The tree of the knowledge of evil
There was here a very plain memorial of duty. For this tree taught--
1. That man was sincerely to contemplate and desire the chief good, but not to endeavour after it, but only in the manner and way prescribed by Heaven; nor here to give in to his own reasonings, how plausible soever they might appear.
2. That man’s happiness was not to be placed in things pleasing to the senses of the body. There is another and a quite different beatifying good which satiates the soul and of itself suffices to the consummation of happiness.
3. That God was the most absolute Lord of man, whose sole will, expressed by His law, should be the supreme rule and directory of all the appetites of the soul and of all the motions of the body.
4. That there is no attaining to a life of happiness but by perfect obedience.
5. That even man in innocence was to behave with a certain religious awe when conversing with his God, lest he should fall into sin. (H. Witsius, D. D.)
The knowledge of right and wrong
I. We call the Scriptures a revelation; in other words, an unveiling. The Bible records were given to us to take away the veil which hung between heaven and earth, between man and God. Their purpose is to reveal God. The actual revelation which has been made to us is of God in His relation to the soul of man. We are not to demand, we are not to expect, any further revelation. Of the secrets of God’s power and origin we are told not a word. Such knowledge is not for us. The self-declared object of the Scriptures is that men should know God and know themselves.
II. But the condition on which such an object may be accomplished is this: that the Book of God should appeal to men in a form not dependent for its appreciation upon any knowledge which they may have obtained--independent, that is, of the science of any particular age or country.
III. Here, so early in the sacred books, is revealed the fact of the two opposing forces of right and wrong. Take away the reality of this distinction, and the Bible and all religion falls forever. Make its reality and importance felt in the soul of man, and you have at once whereon to build. Righteousness is the word of words throughout all Scripture. The righteousness which the Scriptures reveal is the knowledge of a communion with God. When our earth has played its part in the economy of the universe, and is seen by the few spheres which are within its ken to pass away as a wandering fire, right and wrong will not have lost their primeval significance, and the souls which have yearned and laboured for rest in the home of spirits will find that rest in Him who was and is and is to be. (A. Ainger, D. D.)
The tree of knowledge
The trial of Adam, like that of every other man, was whether he would so fat” believe in God as to look for happiness in obedience to the Divine command; or would seek that happiness elsewhere, and apply for it to some forbidden object, of which the tree must have been an emblematical representation. You will ask what that object was? And what information, as to the knowledge of good and evil, Adam could receive from the prohibition? By answering the last question, a way may, in some measure, perhaps, be opened for an answer to the first. A due contemplation of the prohibition might naturally suggest to the mind of our first parent the following important truths; especially if we consider (as we must and ought to consider) that to him, under the tuition of his Maker, all things necessary were explained and made clear, how obscure soever they may appear to us, forming a judgment of them from a very concise narrative, couched in figurative language, at this distance of time. Looking upon the tree of knowledge then, and recollecting the precept of which it was the subject, Adam might learn, that God was the sovereign Lord of all things: that the dominion vested in man over the creatures was by no means a dominion absolute and independent: that without, and beside God, there was no true and real good: that to desire anything without and beside Him was evil; that no temporal worldly good, however fair and tempting its appearance, was to be fixed upon by man as the source of his felicity: that the sole rule for shunning, or desiring things sensible, should be the will and word of God; and that good and evil should be judged of by that standard alone: that the obedience, which God would accept, must be paid with all the powers and affections of the mind, showing itself careful and prompt in even the least instance: that man was not yet placed in a state of consummate and established bliss; but that such state was by him to be earnestly expected, and incessantly desired: and that he must take the way to it, marked and pointed out by God Himself. These particulars seem to flow from the prohibition in an easy and natural train. And they lead us to answer the other question; namely--What was the object represented by the tree of knowledge? It was that object, on which man is prone to set his affections, instead of placing them on a better; it was that object, which, in every age, has been the great rival of the Almighty in the human heart; it was that object, which, in one way or other, has always been “worshipped and served rather than the Creator”; it was the creature, the world; and the grand trial was, as it ever hath been, and ever will be, till the world shall cease to exist, whether things visible, or things invisible, should obtain the preference; whether man should walk “by sight, or by faith.” To know this, was the knowledge of good and evil; and this knowledge came by the law of God, which said, “Thou shalt not covet.” Man’s wisdom consisted in the observance of that law; but an enemy persuaded him to seek wisdom by transgressing it. He did so, and had nothing left but to repent of his folly; a case that happens, among his descendants, every day, and every hour. Let us, therefore, consider the tree of knowledge, in this light, with respect to its nature, situation, design, qualities, effects, and the knowledge conferred by it. The fruit of this tree was, to appearance, fair and pleasant; but, when tasted, it became, by the Divine appointment, the cause of death. Now, what is it, which, in the eyes of all mankind, seems equally pleasing and alluring, but the end thereof, when coveted in opposition to the Divine command, proves to be death? It is the world, with its pleasures and its glories, desired by its votaries, per fas atque nefas, to the denial of God, and to their own destruction. The tree of knowledge was situated in the midst of the garden, as was the tree of life. They stood near together, but they stood in opposition. The Divine dispensations are always best illustrated by each other. Under the gospel Jesus Christ is the tree of life. What is it that opposes Him, and, notwithstanding all that He has done, and suffered, and commanded, and promised, and threatened, is continually, by its solicitations, being ever present and at hand, seducing men into the path of death? Scripture and experience again join in assuring us that it is the world. The tree of knowledge was designed to be the test of Adam’s obedience, the subject matter of his trial. The world, with its desirable objects, is the test of our obedience, the subject matter of our trial, whether we will make it our chief good, or prefer the promise of God to it. The apparent qualities of the forbidden tree are represented to have been these. It seemed “good for food, and fair to the sight, and a tree to be desired to make one wise.” It is remarkable that St. John, laying before us an inventory of the world, and all that is in it, employs a division entirely similar. “Love not the world,” says he, “neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the desire thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” Here is a picture of the fatal tree, full blown, with all its temptations about it, drawn, by the pencil of truth, in its original and proper colours. The expressions tally, to the minutest degree of exactness The “desire of the flesh” answers to “good for food”; the “desire of the eyes” is parallel with “fair to the sight”; and the “pride of life” corresponds with “a tree to be desired to make one wise.” The opposition between this tree and the other is strongly marked. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” And, we are informed, that one leads to death, the other to life. “The world passeth away, and the desire thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” Precisely conformable, in every circumstance, was the threefold temptation of the second Adam. He was tempted to convert stones into bread for food, to satisfy “the desire of the flesh.” Thus, whether we consider the tree of knowledge as to its nature, its situation, its design, or its qualities, it seems to have been a very apt and significant emblem of the creature, or the world, with its delights and its glories, the objects opposed, in every age, to God and His Word. To reject the allurements of the former, and obey the dictates of the latter, is the knowledge of good and evil, and the true wisdom of man. So that the forbidden tree in paradise, when the Divine intentions concerning it are explained from other parts of Scripture, teaches the important lesson more than once inculcated by Solomon, and which was likewise the result of holy Job’s inquiries; “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” (Bishop Horne.)
The tree of knowledge of good and evil
The tree of knowledge of good and evil was so called not merely as a test for proving man, and showing whether he would choose the good or the evil--nor, merely because by eating it he would come to know both good and evil, and the evil so that he would know the good in the new light of contrast with the evil. Both these were involved. But it was set also as a symbol of the Divine knowledge to which man should not aspire, but to which he should submit his own judgment and knowledge. The positive prohibition was to be a standing discipline of the human reason, and a standing symbol of the limitation of religious thought. Man was to have life, not by following out his own opinions and counsels, but by faith and the unqualified submission of his intellect and will to God, No reason is here given for this, except in the name of the tree, and the nature of the penalty. God would not have him know evil. Sin was already an invader of His universe in the fallen angels. Evil was, therefore, a reality. Man was interdicted from that kind of knowledge which is evil, or, which includes evil--because of itself in its own nature, it leads him to death. Thus this is, therefore, not a mere arbitrary appointment. It has grounds in the evident nature of things. Nor was the penalty denounced against the transgression arbitrary. The disobedience was itself necessarily death. The curse could not have been less than it was. The act itself was a disruption of the tie which bound man to his Maker, and by which alone he could live. The knowledge of evil, sadly enough, lay in the partaking of that tree. Man already had the knowledge of good, and a moral sense of the eternal distinction between right and wrong. But good and evil, in all their mutual bearings, he could not presume to know by contact and experience as he aspired and claimed to know them under the promise of Satan. We hear no more of this tree. It served its purpose in the garden. We hear of the tree of life. The act of partaking was an encroachment upon the Divine prerogative. This tree was set to be to man the occasion of the highest Divine knowledge, in the training of his thoughts to subjection, and in the contemplation of God’s prerogatives of knowledge. The highest reason accords to God this claim--and renders the profoundest submission of the human mind and will toGod--to His plan of Providence and grace. So the renewed man cries out, “O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.” Christ crucified is the wisdom of God, and the power of God, unto salvation. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Man was prohibited from laying hold of this fruit that was held to be under the Divine prerogative. And it is just at this point that Satan has always plied his most artful and powerful temptation. And just here, in taking what is forbidden--and in refusing all subjection and limitation of religious thought, man has always fallen under the curse. “Professing themselves to be wise they became fools.” This is the spirit of our fallen race, that in every age, keeps man out of paradise. And this is the mark of Anti-Christ “sitting in the temple of God, showing (exhibiting) himself that he is God,” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). Hence, also, cherubim--the angels of knowledge--are set with the “flaming sword to keep (guard) the way of the tree of life” (chap. 3:24). This tree was also, as Luther says, a sign for man’s worship dud reverent obedience of God, and so it would represent the homage due to God’s word, as the revelation of God’s truth--of His mind and will to men. (M. W.Jacobus.)
Significance of trees
To the thoughtful observer, perhaps, there is no more profound object in nature than a tree. Its graceful figure, its wavy outlines, its emerald hue, its variety of branches and twigs and leaves--illustrating diversity in unity--its tinted and fragrant blossoms, its luscious fruit, its exhibition of many of the wonderful phenomena of human life, such as birth, growth, respiration, absorption, circulation, sleep, sexuality, decay, death, reproduction: these are some of the particulars which make a tree the living parable of man and of society, and, as such, perhaps the most interesting object in the natural world. No wonder, then, that among all nations and in all ages trees have had a peculiar fascination, and even sacredness for the devoutly inclined. Witness the groves of the Hebrews, the symbol tree of the Assyrian sculptures, the Dryads of Greece, the Druids of Britain, the Igdrasil of the Norsemen. We need not be surprised, then, that on going back to nature’s Eden we learn that paradise, rich in every element of beauty, was especially rich in trees. Jehovah God caused to spring up in the Garden of Eden every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. But amid all this variety of trees two stood forth in memorable conspicuousness, their very names having come down to us through the oblivion of millenniums: one was the tree of life in the midst of the garden; the other the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (G. D.Boardman.)
The gold of that land is good
I. If men so willed, GOLD MIGHT BE WON AND NO SOUL LOST. And therefore we must take care to distinguish between gold and the thirst for gold. Gold is like the rest of God’s gifts, a good thing or a bad thing, according to the use made of it. And so it is no wonder that Scripture has recorded that near to paradise was a land of gold. The land of Havilah may exist still; the fine gold and the bdellium and the onyx stone may now lie buried deep beneath its surface, or perhaps may yet be lying disregarded, like the treasures of California or Australia not many years ago.
II. Be this as it may, THERE IS ANOTHER LAND WHOSE GOLD IS GOOD, a land farther off than the far West and the islands of the sea, and yet ever close at hand, approachable by all, attainable by all, where no rust corrupts and no thieves break through and steal. The gold of that other land is good, simply because, though the words sound like a contradiction, it is not gold. It has been changed. In the world above, that which stands for gold is more precious than gold itself, for even gold cannot purchase it, though gold may serve it.
III. THE TREASURE OF HEAVEN IS LOVE. Love is the true gold. All else will tarnish and canker and eat into the souls of them that covet it; but Love never. It is bright and precious here in this world; fraud cannot despoil us of it; force cannot rob us of it; it is our only safe happiness here, and it is the only possession we can carry with us into the world beyond the grave. (F. E.Paget, M. A.)
Money and money making are the most frequent and familiar subjects of talk and thought. I remember once seeing an old merchant, at whose house I was visiting, sitting by himself against the wall. The room was filled with guests; music and dancing and merry laughter were all around; but there sat the old man, taking no heed, with his head against the wall. Fearing he was ill, I asked his son about him, and he answered--“He is only thinking about money; he is always like that.”
I. Now, understand me at the beginning, there is no sin in having money, if it be honestly come by and rightly used. What I want to do is to show you THE SIN AND FOLLY OF THINKING TOO MUCH OF EARTHLY TREASURE, and too little of heavenly. An emigrant ship was once wrecked on a desert island. The people were saved, but they had few provisions, and it was necessary to make haste to clear and till the ground and sow seed. Before this could be done they discovered gold on the island, and everyone gave himself up to the search for wealth. Meantime, the season slipped by, the fields were left untilled, and the people found themselves starving in the midst of useless treasure. There are people now who starve their soul and conscience that they may acquire a little more gold and silver.
1. One reason why we are wrong in thinking too highly of earthly wealth is, that the obtaining it is a very uncertain and difficult thing. Where one man grows rich, hundreds are ruined.
2. Another reason for not thinking too highly of earthly wealth is, that it is soon gone.
3. We should not overvalue earthly wealth, because it does not make people happy. A golden crown will not cure the headache, or a velvet slipper give ease from the gout. Sometimes, indeed, wealth has made people altogether miserable. There was a miser, worth thousands of pounds annually, who firmly believed that he must die in the workhouse, and actually worked daily in a garden and made one of his own servants pay him wages.
4. Excessive love of money is to be avoided, because it often keeps us back from God.
II. I pass on to speak of BETTER RICHES THAN THIS WORLD CAN GIVE, riches which all may have if they will, which will make the poorest wealthy. “The gold of that land is good.” Earthly gold is often alloyed with base metal, but the gold of God is pure. Earthly gold is only for the few; the gold of God is for all who desire it. Earthly gold soon passes away; the gold of God lasts forever. Earthly gold must be left at the grave; the gold of God becomes even more precious after death than before. Earthly gold cannot satisfy; the gold of God brings perfect peace and satisfaction.
1. Tim love of God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
2. The precious promises of the gospel.
The wonderful gold
Everyone knows what gold is. The land here spoken of was called “the land of Havilah.” This was a country far away in Asia, near the garden of Eden, in which God put our first parents when they were created. What a blessed, happy place it must have been! Who would not like to have lived there? And there was gold, too, in Eden; yes, and “the gold of that land was good.” Now, we never can enter that garden. But there is a better one than that, which we may enter. The garden in which Adam first lived, and which we call Eden, or Paradise, was the figure or image of heaven. And many of the very same things will be found in this heavenly paradise which were in the earthly paradise. The gold of heaven means the grace of God. And, if anybody wants me to prove this, it is easy enough to do so. Jesus Himself speaks of His grace as gold, when He says, “I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich” (Revelation 3:18). “Gold tried in the fire” here means the grace of God. And so, if we take “the land of Havilah” spoken of in our text as representing heaven, and if we take the gold of heaven as representing the grace of God, then we may very well point up to heaven and say, “The gold of that land is good.” There are three things about this gold which show that it is wonderful. And these three things are all connected with the word getting.
I. THE WAY OF GETTING this gold is wonderful.
1. People sometimes have to go a great distance in order to get earthly gold. When the gold mines in California were first discovered, there was a great rush of people from all parts of this country, who wanted to go out there and get gold. Some went by sea, all the way round Cape Horn. That was a long, cold, stormy, disagreeable, and dangerous voyage to take. But they were going for gold, and they cared nothing for the length of the journey they had to take ill getting it. Other people went in waggers, or on foot, across the country. Some had more than two thousand miles’ distance to go. What a long way that is to travel! But they were going for gold, and that made them willing. But the wonderful thing about the heavenly gold is, that no long journey is necessary in order to get it. It is not stored up, like earthly gold, in mines which can only be found in particular places. It is to be found in all countries. It may be had in all places. The church is a good place in which to seek it. So is the Sunday school. So is the room in which you sleep at night.
2. But, besides going a great distance, men often have to meet great dangers before they can get the earthly gold they are seeking. Some of those people who went round by sea to California to get gold met with terrible storms. Some of them were shipwrecked, and lost their lives on the way. And those who went by land met with great dangers too. Some of them lost their way in the desert plains which they had to travel over. Some got out of provisions and suffered dreadfully from hunger and thirst. Some were robbed by the Indians. But there is no exposure to danger in seeking the heavenly gold. At home, among those who love you best, you may seek it and find it. And no one can hinder or hurt you in doing this.
3. In getting earthly gold men not only have to go a great distance, and meet great dangers, but often they have to pay a great price to get it. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, lost his situation with that good master; he lost his health too, and became a miserable leper all his days, whom no one could cure, in order to get a little gold. That was a great price to pay for it. Judas Iscariot sold his Master for a little money. Oh, what a tremendous price that was to pay for it! Benedict Arnold sold his country for a poor, paltry sum of gold. Some men are willing to pay any price for earthly gold. Look at the whalers. They are willing to go from home for two or three years at a time. They will sail up into the cold and stormy North Sea, or Frozen Ocean. They will run the risk of being crushed to death between jarring icebergs; or of being frozen up in the north all winter; they will meet with all sorts of trials and hardships in order to get a little gold. This is the great price they are willing to pay for it. But nothing of this kind is necessary in order to get the heavenly gold. Jesus counsels us to buy this gold of Him. He is the only one from whom it can be had. But the way in which Jesus sells this gold is very wonderful. He tells us to “come, and buy wine and milk, without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). The “wine and milk” spoken of in one of these passages, and the “gold” spoken of in the other, all mean the same thing. They refer to the grace of God. Jesus sells this “without money and without price.” This means that He lets poor sinners, such as we are, have it free.
II. The second thing that is wonderful about it is THE DESIRE OF GETTING IT. The desire to get earthly gold often has a wonderfully bad effect; but the desire to get the heavenly gold has a wonderfully good effect. Let us see now what a bad effect the desire to get earthly gold often has on people.
St. Paul calls this desire “the love of money”; and he says it is “the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). The desire to get this gold has led men to cheat, and to lie, and to steal, and to murder, and to commit all kinds of wickedness. Some time ago, as many will remember, there was a horrible murder committed just outside Philadelphia. A poor, wretched German, whose name was Probst, enticed a whole family into the barn, and murdered them one by one, even down to the innocent little babe in the cradle. He was not angry with them. He had no quarrel with them. The only thing that led him on to do that dreadful deed was the desire for gold--“the love of money.” And most of the horrible murders committed inthe world are caused by this same desire. When the Spaniards discovered the country of Mexico, in South America, they sent an army, under a general, whose name was Cortez, to conquer the country. The principal motive of those Spanish soldiers, in trying to conquer the country, was a desire to get gold. They expected to find gold so plentiful in the city of Mexico, that there would be more than they would want, or more than they could carry away. The Mexicans defended their city as long as they could, like brave men. When they found that it was impossible to defend it any longer, they took the great treasures of gold that were in their city, and threw them into the lake on which the city stood. They knew that gold was the chief thing the Spaniards desired, and they wanted to leave as little for them to get as possible. The Spaniards took the city, but were sorely disappointed to find so little gold there. They knew that the Mexicans had put it away somewhere. They tried to persuade them to tell where they had hid their treasures. But the Mexicans would not toll. Then the Spaniards tortured them in order to make them tell. The Emperor of Mexico then was a truly brave and noble man. The miserable Cortez became very angry with him, because he would not tell where the treasure was. So he ordered a huge gridiron to be made. He had this brave emperor fastened to it with a chain. Then he had a fire kindled under it, and roasted him alive in the most cruel and lingering manner. How horrible to think of! There you see the bad effect of the desire of earthly gold. But very different results follow from the desire to get the heavenly gold of which we are speaking. Wonderful good results from this, as wonderful evil results from the other. The love of earthly gold is the root of all evil. The love of heavenly gold is the root of all good. It corrects everything that is wrong, and leads to everything that is right. It makes the heart new, and the thoughts new, and the feelings new, and the tempers new; and everything about it makes holy and good.
III. The third thing about this gold that is wonderful is THE RESULT OF GETTING IT. The result of getting earthly gold is wonderfully bad; but the result of getting the heavenly gold is wonderfully good. When St. Paul would show us the bad result that often follows to people from getting earthly gold, he says, it “drowns men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9). Some years ago there was a person, in a village in England, who was a collector for a Bible Society. He had a list of the names of a number of persons in the village who were subscribers to the Bible cause, and once a year he used to go round and collect their subscriptions. Among these names was that of a poor widow woman, who supported herself by washing. She was about the poorest person whose name he had on his list, and yet she was one of the most liberal, For a long time she had been in the habit of giving a guinea a year to the Bible Society. But one year a rich relation of this poor washer woman died, and left a large fortune to her. She still lived in the same village; but her humble little cottage had been exchanged for one of the largest and finest houses in the village. After a while the time came for the Bible collector to go round and gather up his subscriptions. He knew about the change which had taken place in the circumstances of her whom he had long known as the poor washer woman. And as he went to call on her at her new house he said to himself, “I shall get a fine largo subscription from this good woman. For if, when she was a poor washer woman, and had to work hard for her living, she could give a guinea a year, how much more will she be sure to give now, when she lives in so large a house, and is so well off?” So he rang the bell; and was ushered into the handsome parlour, where he met his old friend and subscriber. He said he was glad to hear of the pleasant change which had taken place in her circumstances, and then stated that he came once more for her subscription to that best of all books--the Bible. She opened her purse and handed him a shilling! He looked at it with astonishment. Then he said, “My good friend, what does this mean? I can’t understand it. When you were a poor woman and lived on your own labour, you always gave a guinea a year to the Bible Society; and now, when you are so well off, can it be possible that you intend to give only a shilling?” “Yes,” she said, “that’s all I am willing to give now. I feel very differently about these things from what I used to do. When I was really a poor woman I gladly gave away whatever money I could spare, for I never felt afraid of being poorer than I then was. But now the fear of being poor haunts me like a ghost, and makes me all the time unwilling to spend any money, or give it away. The truth is,” she continued, “when I only had the shilling means, I had the guinea heart; but now, when I have the guinea means, I find that I only have the shilling heart.” Here we see the evil that resulted to this person from getting gold. It froze all her kind feelings, and shrunk up her large and liberal heart into a tiny little selfish one. She was a rich woman when she was very poor, but a poor woman when she became very rich. But the heavenly gold is very different from this. It is wonderful gold, because of the good it always does to those who get it. (R. Newton, D. D.)
To dress it and to keep it
EVERY SON OF ADAM IS BOUND TO SOME EMPLOYMENT OR OTHER IN A PARTICULAR CALLING. This ordinance of God concerning man’s labour (as are all the rest of His laws) is both equal and good.
1. That men might exercise their love to the creatures, wherein they some ways resemble God Himself.
2. That they might have some title, in equity, to the use of the creature, which they preserve by their labour.
3. That by busying themselves about the creatures, they might the better observe God in His various works in and by them; that so they might yield Him His due honour, and quicken their hearts to more cheerfulness in His service, and settle them in a faithful dependence upon Him.
4. That their employments about the creatures might keep their hearts both from vain and idle thoughts, and from swelling with the apprehension of their lordship and sovereignty over them.
5. That the body of man being exercised as well as his mind, might at present be the better preserved in health, and hereafter be partakers of eternal glory, having been used as an instrument for God’s service.
II. MEN’S CALLINGS AND EMPLOYMENTS ARE BY GOD’S OWN APPOINTMENT. Let every man then in his calling so carry himself as God’s servant:
1. Undertaking it by His warrant, either by public or private direction, or by bestowing on us abilities for the employment, or by presenting opportunities outwardly, or moving us inwardly, by strong, constant, and regular inclinations thereunto.
2. Walking in it with fear, fidelity, and cheerfulness (Ephesians 6:6-8).
3. Guiding himself by the rule of God’s Word directing him, either by particular precepts or by general rules.
4. Aiming therein at the right end, seeking not so much our good as the good of community.
5. And abiding therein till God Himself discharge him (2 Corinthians 7:20)--either
III. DUTY, AND NOT GAIN TO OURSELVES, IS, OR SHOULD BE, THE GROUND AND SCOPE OF THE UNDERTAKING OF ALL OUR PARTICULAR CALLINGS. This duty we owe--
1. To God, whose we are, and to whom we must be accountable for all that we do; whence the apostle requires every man to continue in his place, because he is called of God (1 Corinthians 7:20), as being therein the servants of God or Christ (Ephesians 6:7).
2. To men, serving one another through love, labouring not so much what is good to ourselves as what is good generally to others with ourselves Ephesians 4:28), not seeking our own, but the profit of many (1 Corinthians 10:33).
IV. MAN’S LABOURS, ALTHOUGH THEY BE A MEANS OF PRESERVING THE CREATURES, YET THE BENEFIT OF THEM REDOUNDS AT LAST UNTO THEMSELVES. The plants and trees that are preserved and propagated by our labours are either our food or medicine, or serviceable to us for building; we clothe ourselves with the fleece of those flocks that we store up provision for, have the benefit of the labour of those oxen that we feed and cheer our hearts with the wine of those vines that we plant. God hath indeed been pleased to order it--
1. Because He hath made the creatures for our service.
2. That He might the more encourage us unto those services, whereof ourselves are to receive the fruit.
V. MAN’S EMPLOYMENT OUGHT ESPECIALLY TO BE IN THOSE PLACES, AND LABOUR WHERE IT IS MOST NEEDED, AND MAY BRING MOST BENEFIT.
VI. THE LABOUR OF MAN MAKES NOTHING AT ALL, BUT ONLY BY HIS HUSBANDRY CHERISHETH AND ORDERETH THAT WHICH IS ALREADY MADE.
1. God provides all the materials whereof we make use in our employments, as the soil, the seed, the rain, and influence of the heavens that cherish it; the timber, the stones, the metals, the wool, the flax, and the like.
2. The abilities by which they have strength to produce those effects are merely from God.
3. The understanding and wisdom by which men discern the natures and abilities of the creatures and their uses, for which, by well ordering and disposing of them, they may be made serviceable; that also is wholly from Isaiah 28:26).
4. The success and effect of the labour which we bestow is the fruit of this blessing (Genesis 26:12; Psalms 65:10). So that it is God alone that doth all in all; and man in effect doth nothing but make use of such means as God both prepares to his hand and works by to produce the desired effect. Let it then pluck down the pride of all our hearts, who are so apt to rejoice in the works of our own hands, not as in the fruits of God’s blessing, but as in the effects of our own endeavours; and let it check our vain and dangerous confidence, which makes us trust in our own wisdom and power, and burn incense to our own net and yarn, that we may ascribe the success of all our labours about the things of this life unto God alone, who is indeed pleased to make use of our heads and hands in the conservation of His creatures; but--
1. Rather to keep us doing than because He needs our help.
2. That finding by experience how little our labours work to the producing of any effect, we might rejoice in Him who worketh all things by His mighty power and not in ourselves.
3. And thereupon might be taught to depend upon Him and serve Him; when we observe the success of our labours to be the effect of His power, and not of any ability of ours.
4. To abase and humble us, in busying ourselves about the service even of those creatures that He hath put under our feet; all which He hath ordained only for a short time, whereas hereafter all men’s labours, as well as all other means, shall cease with the use of those creatures which are supported by them; and God shall be all in all. (J. White, M. A.)
Man’s work in the garden
Having prepared the garden, the Lord God took the man and placed him in it, that he might till it and keep it. It was made for him, and he for it, as the body is made for the soul, and the soul for the body. It was fruitful beyond anything we now know of, yet it was not so fruitful as to make any kind of care or cultivation needless. It was so fruitful as to occasion no toil nor weariness to the cultivator, yet not so fruitful as not to afford occasion to man’s skill and watchfulness. No amount of skill or toil now can call up beauty, or verdure, or fruit, beyond a certain narrow limit; for man has to do with a rugged soil. But in Adam’s case the ground easily and gladly yielded its substance without limit to the most gentle toil. Nay, it was not toil; it was simple, pleasant occupation. No doubt the amount and kind of its actual fruit bearing was to depend upon himself; he was to regulate this according to his wants and tastes; but still the fruit-bearing source was in the soil, imparted directly by the hand of God--that all-quickening, all-fertilizing Spirit that brooded over the face of the deep. Afterwards that Spirit was grieved away from the soil by man’s sin; but at first His power was most signally manifested in its fruitful richness. Man was lord of the soil, and of all that trod it or grew on it, and his daily employments were to manifest his dominion--not dominion over a rebellious earth, needing to be curbed or scourged into obedience, but a dominion over a willing world, that stood eagerly awaiting his commands. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
Exhortation to industry
If God have called you, as He called Adam, to till the ground, let your weedless field give evidence that Industry has holden the plough and the hoe in her hands. If He have called you to ply the instruments of the artizan, let your shop be musical the livelong day with the clicking of your tools. If He have called you to the pursuit of trade, let your well-arranged commodities and punctual fulfillments testify that you are not slothful in business (Romans 12:11). If He have called you to the quest of knowledge, let your well-thumbed books attest that Diligence has reigned in your study. If He have called you to the wifely duties of the matron, look well to the ways of thy household, and eat not the bread of idleness (Proverbs 31:27). Take care lest thy garden degenerate into the sluggard’s field, grown up with nettles, covered with brambles, breached with broken walls, poverty prowling around thy dwelling, thy wants leaping upon thee as armed men (Proverbs 24:30-34). In brief, whatever be the occupation to which the Providence of God has called thee, pursue it with enthusiasm, doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3:17). (G. D.Boardman.)
Cyrus a gardener
When Lysander, the Lacedaemonian general, brought magnificent presents to Cyrus, the younger son of Darius, who piqued himself more on his integrity and politeness than on his rank and birth, the prince conducted his illustrious guest through his gardens, and pointed out to him their varied beauties. Lysander, struck with so fine a prospect, praised the manner in which the grounds were laid out, the neatness of the walks, the abundance of fruits, planted with an art which knew how to combine the useful with the agreeable, the beauty of the parterres, and the glowing variety of flowers, exhaling odours universally throughout the delightful scene. “Everything charms and transports me in this place,” said Lysander to Cyrus; “but what strikes me most is the exquisite taste and elegant industry of the person who drew the plan of these gardens, and gave it the fine order, wonderful disposition, and happiness of arrangement which I cannot sufficiently admire.” Cyrus replied, “it was I that drew the plan and entirely marked it out; and many of the trees which you see were planted by my own hands.” “What!” exclaimed Lysander, with surprise, and viewing Cyrus from head to foot, “is it possible that, with those purple robes and splendid vestments, those strings of jewels and bracelets of gold, those buskins so richly embroidered; is it possible that you could play the gardener, and employ your royal hands in planting trees?” “Does that surprise you?” said Cyrus; “I assure you that, when my health permits, I never sit down to my table without having fatigued myself, either in military exercise, rural labour, or some other occupation.”
In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.
The fall of man
These words were fulfilled at the time they were spoken; they have been fulfilled ceaselessly thereafter. We live in a universe of death. The phenomenon is common to us, but no familiarity can rob it of its dreadfulness; for the dead, who are the more in number, have kept their awful secret unrevealed, and the child who died yesterday knows more than can be guessed at by the thousand millions of living men. Yet this death is the least and the least dreaded part of that other, that second, that spiritual death which God meant in the warning of the text.
1. Notice first the certainty of that death. Let us learn to be early undeceived about the tempter’s falsehood, “Ye shall not surely die.” If a man will serve his sin, let him at least reckon upon this, that in one way or other it will be ill with him; his sin will find him out: his path will be hard; there will be to him no peace. The night of concealment may be long, but dawn comes like the Erinnys to reveal and avenge its crimes.
2. Not only is this punishment inevitable, but it is natural; not miraculous, but ordinary; not sudden, but gradual; not accidental, but necessary; not exceptional, but invariable. Retribution is the impersonal evolution of an established law.
3. Retribution takes the form which of all others the sinner would passionately deprecate, for it is homogeneous with the sins on whose practice it ensues. In lieu of death God offers us His gift of eternal life. While yet we live, while yet we hear the words of invitation, the door is not shut, and we may pass to it by the narrow way. To Eve was given the dim promise that her seed should bruise the serpent’s head; for us Christ has trampled sin and Satan under His feet. (Archdeacon Farrar.)
In what does man’s death as a sinner consist?
I. THE EMPHASIS EXPRESSED IN THE TEXT. Literally, “Dying thou shalt die.” Intensity, rather than certainty.
1. Death, as a dissolution, may be a natural event.
2. Sin gives this dissolution its terrible significance.
II. THE TIME SPECIFIED IN THE TEXT. Adam did die on the day he sinned. Such a change took place, not merely in his physical condition, but in his mind and heart--so much remorse and foreboding, so many dark thoughts about his dissolution--that he died: his innocency died, his hopes died, his peace died. Conclusion: This view of the subject--
1. Serves to reconcile science and revelation.
2. Serves to explain many ambiguous passages. “The wages of sin is death.” “To be carnally minded is death.” “Christ hath abolished death.”
3. Serves to show the value of the gospel. (Homilist.)
Will God punish sin?
I. Who can doubt it, who listens to the voice of reason and of Scripture?
II. The political history of the world bears equally positive testimony.
III. The history of the Church itself furnishes a solemn and affecting answer to the question.
IV. The human conscience bears no doubtful testimony on this subject.
V. The Holy Scriptures answer our question with solemn and startling emphasis. They reveal a holy God, hating all iniquity, and pledged by every attribute of His being, and by every principle of His government, to oppose, subdue, punish, and hedge up the way of sin. (J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)
The forbidden tree
I. THE LARGE AND BOUNTIFUL PROVISION WHICH GOD MADE FOR THE HAPPINESS OF MAN. It is this which leaves our first parents without excuse. There was but one forbidden tree.
II. THE TRIAL OF MAN’S OBEDIENCE. The having some command which we can break is evidently essential to our first notions of moral accountableness; but further than this the restriction placed upon our first parents seems not intended to go. You will observe, from its terms, that it interfered with no one form of rational enjoyment; it left no one of man’s mental appetencies ungratified; it involved neither pain, nor effort, nor self-denial, nor cost; it was just an acknowledgment which God required from man of his submission; it was, in fact, a mere nominal quit rent, which he had to pay to the great Landlord of the universe, for having an estate worthy of an angel. With regard to the manner in which all this mental and moral confusion could be connected with the mere gratification of the bodily appetite, it is not wise to speculate. Analogies are not wanting to show to us how the fruits of the earth may be converted into a moral as well as a material poison. We have heard of those who are said to “dig their graves with their teeth”; of those who for a mess of pottage would sell the birthright of immortality; of those who put a thief into their heads, to steal away reason, reflection, thought, ay, their very hopes of heaven; and it may have been so with regard to “the tree of knowledge.”
III. THE THREATENED PENALTIES OF DISOBEDIENCE. Where you may first notice the terms of the sentence, in respect to time. “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” Some persons see a difficulty in this passage, because the sentence of death was not executed upon the day of transgression; but this arises from overlooking the exact import of the Hebrew words used, which would fairly admit of being rendered as referring not to the actual infliction of death, so much as subjecting man to the liability to die. It imports, that he should from that moment become mortal, that there should be the beginnings and seeds of dissolution incorporated with his very being, from the time he tasted of that tree. This rendering will receive some elucidation, if you look at the marginal rendering which is proposed. You will observe, it is there said, “dying, thou shalt die.” Now, this is a common Hebraism for some continuous and gradually accomplished act. And therefore the import of the words is, that from the moment this tree was tasted, there should be the beginnings of a death which should reach to all his posterity. The same continuousness of action applies to a former part of the verse; for there too, you observe, the same marginal reference is given. It is said, “eating, thou shalt eat,” just as here it is said, “dying, thou shalt die”; and therefore the two expressions may be interpreted alike--the one as saying, “Eating, thou shalt eat,” or, “This tree shall be for thy perpetual life,” the other as saying, “Dying, thou shalt die,” or, “The taste of this tree shall be for thy perpetual death.” Let us close with two reflections.
1. The history we have been contemplating should impress us with a sense of the transcendent evil of sin. The fruit, as it hung in all its seductive and inviting clusters, was a type of all the evil that is to be found in the world. It was pleasing to the eye, it was exciting to the appetite, it was easy to grasp, and, if the eye of God would but slumber, it might be partaken of unobserved. But what were its immediate effects? Disease, mortality, loss of paradise, tormenting fears, the shunning of-the very presence of God. And such is sin now, and such do they who have entered upon its courses know to be its consequences.
2. Then, once more, this history should fill us with gratitude for the greatness of our deliverance through Christ. If we would know the infinite evil of sin, if we would be inspired with a holy aversion from its contact, if we would be won to love and gratitude to the Father of our spirits, we must go and gaze with the eye of faith on the wonders of the cross. (D. Moore, M. A.)
This is a pregnant sentence. It involves the first principles of our intellectual and moral philosophy.
I. THE COMMAND HERE GIVEN IN WORDS BRINGS INTO ACTIVITY THE INTELLECTUAL NATURE OF MAN. First, the power of understanding language is called forth. This is the passive lesson of elocution; the practice, the active lesson will speedily follow. Not only the secondary part, however, but at the same time the primary and fundamental part of man’s intellectual nature is here developed. The understanding of the sign necessarily implies the knowledge of the thing signified. The objective is represented here by the “trees of the garden.” The subjective comes before his mind in the pronoun “thou.” The physical constitution of man appears in the process of “eating.” The moral part of his nature comes out in the significance of the words “mayest” and “shalt not.” The distinction of merit in actions and things is expressed in the epithets “good and evil.” The notion of reward is conveyed in the terms “life” and “death.” And lastly, the presence and authority of “the Lord God” is implied in the very nature of a command. Thus the susceptible part of man’s intellect is evoked. The conceptive part will speedily follow and display itself in the many inventions that will be sought out and applied to the objects which are placed at his disposal.
II. THE MORAL PART OF MAN’S NATURE IS HERE CALLED INTO PLAY.
1. Mark God’s mode of teaching. He issues a command. This is required in order to bring forth into consciousness the hitherto latent sensibility to moral obligation which was laid in the original constitution of man’s being.
2. The special mandate here given is not arbitrary in its form, as is sometimes hastily supposed, but absolutely essential to the legal adjustment of things in this new stage of creation. Antecedent to the behest of the Creator, the only indefeasible right to all the creatures lay in Himself. These creatures may be related to one another. In the great system of things, through the wonderful wisdom of the grand Designer, the use of some may be needful to the well-being, the development, and perpetuation of others. Nevertheless no one has a shadow of right in the original nature of things to the use of any other. And when a moral agent comes upon the stage of being, in order to mark out the sphere of his legitimate action, an explicit declaration of the rights over other creatures granted and reserved must be made. The very issue of the command proclaims man’s original right of property to be not inherent but derived. As might be expected in these circumstances, the command has two clauses, a permissive and a prohibitive.
3. The prohibitory part of this enactment is not a matter of indifference, as is sometimes imagined, but indispensable to the nature of a command, and, in particular, of a permissive act or declaration of granted rights.
4. That which is here made the matter of reserve and so the test of obedience, is so far from being trivial or out of place, as has been imagined, that it is the proper and the only object immediately available for these purposes. The immediate want of man is food. The kind of food primarily designed for him is the fruit of trees.
5. We are now prepared to understand why this tree is called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The prohibition of this tree brings man to the knowledge of good and evil. The products of creative power were all very Genesis 1:31). Even this tree itself is good, and productive of unspeakable good in the first instance to man. The discernment of merit comes up in his mind by this tree. Obedience to the command of God not to partake of this tree is a moral good. Disobedience to God by partaking of it is a moral evil.
6. In the day of thy eating thereof, die surely shalt thou. The Divine command is accompanied with its awful sanction, death. The man could not at this time have any practical knowledge of the physical dissolution called death. We must, therefore, suppose either that God made him preternaturally acquainted with it, or that He conveyed to him the knowledge of it simply as the negation of life. Probably the latter.
III. MAN HAS HERE EVIDENTLY BECOME ACQUAINTED WITH HIS MAKER. On the hearing and understanding of this sentence at least, if not before, he has arrived at the knowledge of God, as existing, thinking, speaking, permitting, commanding, and thereby exercising all the prerogatives of that absolute authority over men and things which creation alone can give. If we were to draw all this out into distinct propositions, we should find that man was here furnished with a whole system of theology, ethics, and metaphysics, in a brief sentence. (Prof. J. G. Murphy.)
The first covenant
I. When we use the word covenant to describe a revelation, which sounds more like a bare command, we mean to imply that this earliest transaction between God and man is marked by the same characteristics which we can trace throughout God’s later dispensations; that it does not rest the claim of obedience on the naked prerogative of unquestionable power, but connects it with the offer of an explicit alternative for the decision of freewill; accompanied by the promise of a blessing for obedience, and by the threat of punishment for disobedience. We thus bring it into direct comparison with the general tenor of God’s later covenants: “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse.” “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil.” A covenant, then, stands by its very nature between two other conceptions, each of which falls short of the full import of God’s dealings with man. It is more than a mere ordinance, or a mere command, such as might have been imposed without reason, and enforced without reward. On the other hand, it is more than that expression of God’s law which He wrote on man’s heart in his very creation, and the traces of which we retain in the authority of conscience.
II. We have next to ask the meaning of the precept which that covenant contained; a precept which sometimes seems so strange and arbitrary: which some interpretations, indeed, describe as really strange and arbitrary; namely, that while freely indulged in every other earthly blessing, man was forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What is the right interpretation of those words? The following seems to be the meaning of Scripture in its disclosures on this earliest covenant. When man had been created after the image of God, there were two of the Divine attributes, his admission to which was limited by positive laws. These higher endowments were Immortality and Knowledge. To these the two trees which were planted in the midst of the garden bore a certain correspondence; that of life he might use, that of knowledge be might not. To have enjoyed free access to both from the beginning would have raised him above the rank which was suited to a being who was as yet so utterly untried. Therefore the one fruit was unconditionally forbidden, while the other fruit was conditionally allowed. When man disobeyed, and tasted of the prohibited tree of knowledge, the command was readjusted to meet the case of his sin. The tree of knowledge had now been tasted: the tree of life was therefore withdrawn. (Archdeacon Hannah.)
The knowledge of good and evil
“The knowledge of good and evil.” Now to understand this expression thoroughly, we must distinguish it very clearly, in the first place, from other kinds of knowledge which were not forbidden: and in the second place, from such a knowledge, even of good and evil, as could manifestly be possessed without sin.
1. As to the first of these points, we might at first be disposed to wonder how knowledge could be, in any form, the one gift which God denied; how the special test of man’s obedience could be placed in his abstinence from what would bring him knowledge, and so open his eyes more fully, as it seemed, to the true nature of the path that lay before him. To this difficulty the obvious answer would be, that when man was forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the injunction certainly did not imply that every kind of knowledge was withheld.
2. It is also clear that there is a knowledge of good and evil, which can be possessed, if it cannot be directly sought for, without sin. From these two considerations we establish, first, that the precept of this earliest covenant would debar man from some kind of knowledge, without excluding him from all knowledge; and secondly, that even when it withheld the knowledge of good and evil, there was still some knowledge which might be described by those same words, yet which could not have been forbidden by them, because its presence was implied in the mere form of the command. The first of these remarks suggests, that we may confine our present inquiry entirely to what is specially called moral knowledge: i.e., the knowledge of moral acts or habits, so far as they are permitted or condemned: knowledge of the right, whether regarded as law, or precept, or command: in combination with knowledge of that transgression of the right, which may be diversely regarded as crime, or vice, or sin. Further, the second remark suggests, that this moral knowledge was not so much forbidden in itself, which would have been impossible in the ease of a being endowed with both a moral and an intellectual nature; but forbidden under certain circumstances, and at a certain time.
By the help of these two positions we may gain, I think, a more close and accurate conception of that acquirement which the fruit of the tree of knowledge would convey.
1. First it would have been barren knowledge. It would have given man a theory, when he needed a rule: it would have lighted up his mind to debate about his duty, when at present his sole work was, to do his duty as the will of God. Precisely so our moral sciences teaches, that in morality, bare theory can never be safely carried far in advance of practice; and that the safe road to moral wisdom lies, not through a familiarity with intellectual systems, but through the ready obedience of the heart.
2. That this knowledge would have been barren, then, is enough to establish the mercy and wisdom of God’s first injunction. But we can go further: we can show that it would have been not less dangerous than useless. Such a knowledge of good and evil would reveal to Adam the grounds of sin, the sources of temptation, etc. Hence, shame was the immediate result of that knowledge. The instant appearance of that feeling showed, that man now for the first time knew his capacities, tendencies, and opportunities for sin. (Archdeacon Hannah.)
I. THE MOST RIGHTEOUS AMONGST THE SONS OF MEN, MUST AND NEEDS TO LIVE UNDER A LAW.
1. For direction, for man is unfit to chose his own way, being through his ignorance so apt to mistake evil for good: neither is any able to find out what is truly good but God alone, who is goodness itself; and His will the rule of goodness which none can find out or reveal but Himself (1 Corinthians 2:11).
2. It is needful that by conforming to the law given us by God, we may testify our obedience and subjection unto Him; withal acknowledging and witnessing to the world, that we account His will in all things to be most just, which we take unto ourselves as the rule of our actions.
II. THE WILL OF GOD IS THAT ONLY, WHICH MAN IS TO LOOK UPON AND TAKE FOR HIS RULE TO GUIDE HIMSELF BY IN ALL HIS WAYS.
1. That by that means we may acknowledge God’s absolute sovereignty when all things are done upon no other ground but because God will have it so.
2. Because nothing is infallibly good or holy but His will, as Himself is good and righteous, and there is no iniquity in Him (Deuteronomy 32:4), seeing nothing is fit to be the rule of other things but that which is in itself certain and unchangeable.
III. GOD IS PLEASED NOT ONLY TO GIVE A LAW TO DIRECT US, BUT TO FURNISH US WITH ALL NEEDFUL MEANS TO FURTHER US IN THE PERFORMANCE OF THE DUTIES REQUIRED THEREIN. And this He doth, partly, to manifest the sincerity of His affection towards us, in desiring our salvation; and partly, to justify Himself in the condemnation of those that refuse so great salvation so many ways tendered unto them, and so obstinately refused. Let us, then, make use of such helps and means as God is pleased to offer unto us, as being assured that He really intends what He so many ways labours to draw us to embrace; and, secondly, as having need of such helps to support us; and, thirdly, being liable to the greater Condemnation, by despising and rejecting them.
IV. THE MATTERS IN WHICH GOD DELIGHTS TO TRY OUR OBEDIENCE ARE MANY TIMES IN THEMSELVES OF NO GREAT IMPORTANCE.
1. To manifest our total subjection unto Him, when we are limited even in the smallest things.
2. To show us that it is only obedience and conformity to His will that God respects, and not She matter or substance of the thing itself in which He requires it.
3. To make our yoke the more easy, that we might be the more encouraged to obedience.
V. OUR ABUNDANCE, AND DELIGHTS, AND PLEASURES MUST BE USED IN FEAR AND WITHIN THE LIMITS OF OBEDIENCE.
VI. DISOBEDIENCE IS A FEARFUL SIN IN GOD’S ACCOUNT. And that especially because it is directed against the majesty of God Himself, whose authority is slighted and despised, when His laws and commandments are disobeyed. And, secondly, it opens a gap to all manner of looseness and disorder; nature knows no stay when it hath once passed the bounds of obedience, no more than a violent stream doth, when it hath once broken over those banks that before kept it in.
VII. THE TERRORS OF THE LAW ARE USEFUL AND NEEDFUL, EVEN UNTO THE BEST AMONGST THE SONS OF MEN.
VIII. DEATH AND DESTRUCTION ARE IN GOD’S HAND, TO INFLICT THEM WHERE HE PLEASETH. The consideration hereof, cannot but revive the heart of God’s servants, hated and persecuted by men of the world, when they know their life and breath is in God’s hand, which therefore none can take away, but by His will and decree; and therefore--
1. Not while God hath any use of their service here.
2. Not if they be of the number of Christ’s redeemed ones, for whom He hath conquered death, and taken away the sting of it (1 Corinthians 15:55-57), and delivered them from the power of it.
IX. ALL KINDS OF EVILS AND MISERIES, PRESENT OR FUTURE, OUTWARD OR INWARD, ARE THE WAGES OF SIN.
X. GOD’S JUDGMENTS ARE CERTAIN AND INFALLIBLE, AS WELL AS HIS PROMISES OF MERCY. Resting upon the same grounds which are in themselves infallible.
1. The holiness of His nature, by which He is constantly moved to take vengeance on sin, as well as to reward righteousness.
2. His unalterable truth, which is firmer than heaven or earth. (See Numbers 14:23-35).
3. His unresistible power (Deuteronomy 32:39). Secondly, directed to the same end which God aims at in all His ways and works, the filling of the earth with His glory (Numbers 14:21), advanced in the acts of His justice, as well as of His mercy.
XI. VENGEANCE AND JUDGMENT FOLLOW SIN AT THE HEELS. (J. White, M. A.)
A view of the covenant of works
We have here an account of the original transaction between God and our first father Adam in paradise, while yet in the state of primitive integrity. In which the following things are to be remarked, being partly expressed and partly implied.
1. The Lord’s making over to him a benefit by way of a conditional promise, which made the benefit a debt upon the performing of the condition. This promise is a promise of life, and is included in the threatening of death.
2. The condition required to entitle him to this benefit, namely, obedience. It is expressed in a prohibition of one particular, “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it.”
3. The sanction, or penalty in case of the breach of the covenant, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
4. Adam’s going into the proposal, and acceptance of those terms, is sufficiently intimated to us by his objecting nothing against it. Door. There was a covenant of works, a proper covenant, between God and Adam the father of mankind.
I. I SHALL CONFIRM THIS GREAT TRUTH, AND EVINCE THE BEING OF SUCH A COVENANT.
1. Here is a concurrence of all that is necessary to constitute a true and proper covenant of works. The parties contracting, God and man; God requiring obedience as the condition of life; a penalty fixed in case of breaking; and man acquiescing in the proposal.
2. It is expressly called a covenant in Scripture: “For these are the two covenants, the one from Mount Sinai,” etc. (Galatians 4:24). This covenant from Mount Sinai was the covenant of works as being opposed to the covenant of grace, namely, the law of the ten commandments, with promise and sanction, as before expressed. At Sinai it was renewed indeed, but that was not its first appearance in the world. For there being but two ways of life to be found in Scripture, one by works, the other by grace, the latter hath no place but where the first is rendered ineffectual; therefore the covenant of works was before the covenant of grace in the world; yet the covenant of grace was promulgated quickly after Adam’s fall; therefore the covenant of works behoved to have been made with him before. And how can one imagine a covenant of works set before poor impotent sinners, if there had not been such a covenant with man in his state of integrity? “But as for them, like Adam, they have transgressed the covenant” (Hosea 6:7).
3. We find a law of works opposed to the law of faith. “Where is boasting, then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay; but by the law of faith” Romans 3:27). This law of works is the covenant of works, requiring works, or obedience, as the condition pleadable for life; for otherwise the law as a rule of life requires works too. Again, it is a law that does not exclude boasting, which is the very nature of the covenant of works, that makes the reward to be of debt. And further, the law of faith is the covenant of grace; therefore the law of works is the covenant of works.
4. There were sacramental signs and seals of this transaction in paradise. “And now lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3:22); and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, mentioned in the words of the text. When we find, then, confirming seals of this transaction, we must own it to be a covenant.
5. Lastly: All mankind are by nature under the guilt of Adam’s first sin Romans 5:12). And they are under the curse of the law before they have committed actual sin: hence they are said to be “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), which they must needs owe to Adam’s sin, as imputed to them. This must be owing to a particular relation betwixt them and him; which must either be, that he is their natural head simply, from whence they derive their natural being--but then the sins of our immediate parents, and all other mediate ones too, behoved to be imputed rather than Adam’s, because oar relation to them is nearer--or because he is our federal head also, representing us in the first covenant. And that is the truth, and evidences the covenant of works made with Adam to have been a proper covenant.
II. I shall explain THE NATURE OF THE COVENANT OF WORKS. In order to do this, I shall consider--First. The parties contracting in this covenant. These were two. First. On the one hand, God Himself, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying,” etc. Genesis 2:16). God, as Creator and Sovereign Lord of man, condescended to enter into a covenant with man, His own creature and subject, whom He might have governed by a simple law, without proposing to him the reward of life. Thus it was a covenant betwixt two very unequal parties. And here God showed--
1. His supreme authority over the creature man, founded on man’s natural dependence on Him as his Creator (Romans 11:36).
2. His abundant goodness, in annexing such a great reward to man’s service, which it could never merit (Hebrews 11:6).
3. His admirable condescension, in stooping to make a covenant with His own creature. Secondly. On the other hand was Adam, the father of all mankind. He must be considered here under a two-fold notion.
1. As a righteous man, morally perfect, endued with sufficient power and abilities to believe and do whatever God should reveal to or require of him, fully able to keep the law. That Adam was thus furnished when the covenant was made with him--
(a) His mind was endowed with knowledge; for that is a part of the image of God in man (Colossians 3:10).
(b) His will was endowed with righteousness (Ephesians 4:24).
(c) His affections were holy (Ephesians 4:24).
(d) He had an executive power, whereby he was capable to do what he knew to be his duty, and inclined to do. He was made very good Genesis 1:31); which implies not only a power to do good, but a facility in doing it free from all clogs and hindrances.
(e) If he had not been so, that covenant could not have been made with him. It was inconsistent with the justice and goodness of God to have required that of His creature which he had not ability to perform given him by his Creator. Wherefore, before Adam could be obliged to perfect obedience, he behoved to have ability competent for it; otherwise that saying of the wicked and slothful servant had been true (Matthew 25:24).
Use 1. How low is man now brought, how unlike to what he was at his creation! Alas! man is now ruined, and sin is the cause of that fatal ruin.
2. What madness is it for men to look to that covenant for salvation, when they are nowise fit for the way of it, having lost all the furniture and ability proper for the observation thereof.
3. See how ye stand with respect to this covenant; whether ye are discharged from it, and brought within the bond of the new covenant in Christ or not. But I proceed. Adam, in the covenant of works, is to be considered as the first man (1 Corinthians 15:47), in whom all mankind was included. And he was--
1. The natural root of mankind, from which all the generations of men on the face of the earth spring. This is evident from Acts 17:26.
2. The moral root, a public person, and representative of mankind. And as such the covenant of works was made with him. As to this representation by Adam, we may note--
1. That the man Christ was not included in it; Adam did not represent Him, as he stood covenanting with God. This is manifest, in that Christ is opposed to Adam, as the last and second Adam to the first Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), one representative to another (verse 48).
2. Whether Eve was included in this representation is not so clear. I find she is excepted by some. It is plain that Adam was the original whence she came, as he and she together are of all their posterity. He was her head. “For the husband is the head of the wife” (Ephesians 5:23). The thread of the history (Genesis 2:1-25) gives us the making of the covenant of works with Adam before the formation of Eve. The covenant itself runs in terms as delivered to one person: “Thou mayest--Thou shalt” (verses 16, 17). From whence it seems to me that she was included.
3. Without question, all his posterity by ordinary generation were included in it. He stood for them all in that covenant, and was their federal head, that covenant being made with him as a public person representing them all. For--
1. God made the choice; He pitched on Adam as a fit person to represent all mankind; and there is no mending of God’s work, which is perfect Ecclesiastes 3:14).
2. Adam was undoubtedly the most fit choice. He was the common father of us all; so being our natural head, he was fittest to be our federal head. He was in case for managing the bargain to the common advantage Ecclesiastes 7:29), being “made upright,” and furnished with sufficient abilities. And his own interest was on the same bottom with that of his posterity. Thus his abilities and natural affections concurring with his own interest, spoke him to be a fit person for that office.
3. The choice was of a piece with the covenant. The covenant, in its own nature most advantageous for man, though it could not be profitable to Job 35:7) was a free benefit and gift on God’s part; forasmuch as man had not a claim to the life promised, but by the covenant. So that as the covenant owed its being, not to nature, but a positive constitution of God, so did the choice owe its being to the same. God joined the covenant and representation together; and so the consent of Adam or his posterity to the one was a consenting to the other.
III. I COME NOW TO DISCOURSE OF THE PARTS OF THE COVENANT. Now, the parts of the covenant of works agreed upon by God and man were three--the condition to he performed by man, the promise to be accomplished to man upon his performance of the condition, and the penalty in case of man’s breaking the covenant. The condition of the covenant of works: First. The first part is the condition to be performed; which was obedience to the law, fulfilling the commands God gave him, by doing what they required (Romans 10:5), upon the doing of which he might claim the promised life in virtue of the compact. So this was a covenant, a covenant properly conditional. For understanding of this, we must consider--
1. What law he was by this covenant obliged to yield obedience to; and--
2. What kind of obedience he was obliged to yield thereto.
First. Let us consider what law he was by this covenant obliged to yield obedience to.
1. The natural law, the law of the ten commandments, as the New Testament explains it (Galatians 3:10). If it be inquired, How that law was given him? It was written on his mind and heart (Romans 2:15); and that in his creation (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Therefore it is called the natural law.
2. Another law which Adam was obliged, by the covenant of works, to yield obedience to, was the positive symbolical law, forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil recorded in the text. This law Adam had not, nor could have, but by revelation; for it was no part of the law of nature, being in its own nature indifferent, and altogether depending on the will of the Lawgiver, who, in a consistency with His own and man’s nature too, might have appointed otherwise concerning it. But this law being once given, the natural law obliged him to the observation of it, inasmuch as it strictly bound him to obey his God and Creator in all things, binding him to love the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. Hence it follows--
1. Herein man’s obedience was to turn upon the precise point of respect to the will of God, which was a trial of his obedience exactly suited to the state he was then in, and by which the most glaring evidence of true obedience would have been given.
2. Thus his obedience or disobedience behoved to be most clear, conspicuous, and undeniable, not only to himself, but to other creatures capable of observation; forasmuch as this law respected an external thing obvious to sense, and the discerning of any, who yet could not judge of internal acts of obedience or disobedience.
3. It was most proper for asserting God’s dominion over man, being a visible badge of man’s subjection to God.
4. It was a most proper moral instrument, and suitable mean, to retain man in his integrity, who, though a happy creature, was yet a changeable one. Secondly. Let us consider what kind of obedience to the law Adam was, by this covenant, obliged to yield, as the condition of it.
To this two-fold law he was to yield--
1. Perfect obedience.
2. Adam was obliged to perpetual obedience (Galatians 3:10). Not that he was forever to have been upon his trial; for that would have rendered the promise of life vain and fruitless, since he could never at that rate have attained the reward of his obedience. But it behoved to be perpetual, as a condition of the covenant, during the time set by God Himself for the trial; which time God has not discovered in His Word.
3. Adam was obliged to personal obedience. Hence says the Lord, “Ye shall keep My statutes and My judgments; which if a man do, he shall live in them” (Leviticus 18:5), which words the Apostle Paul quotes: “Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doth these things shall live by them” (Romans 10:5). The promise to be accomplished to man upon his performance of the condition. That was a promise of life (Romans 10:5), which was implied in the threatening of death in case of sinning. We come now to consider THE PENALTY IN CASE OF MAN’S BREAKING THE COVENANT, not fulfilling the condition. This was death, death in its full latitude and extent, as opposed unto life and prosperity. This death was two fold. First: Legal death, whereby man sinning became dead in law, being a condemned man, laid under the curse, or sentence of the law, binding him over to the wrath of God, and to revenging justice. “For as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse. For it is written, Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” Galatians 3:10). Thus was man to die the day he should break the covenant; and thus he died that very moment he sinned, because by his sin he broke the holy, just, and good law of God, set himself in opposition to the holy nature of God, and cast off the yoke of submission to his Creator. Secondly: Real death, which is the execution of the sentence Deuteronomy 29:19-20); the threatened evils and punishments contained in the curse of the law coming upon him. And of this there are several parts, all which man became liable to, or fell upon him, when he sinned. We take them up in these three--spiritual, natural, and eternal death.
1. Spiritual death, which is the death of the soul and spirit of man Ephesians 2:1, where the apostle mentions a being “dead in trespasses and sins”). This results from the separation of the soul from God, by the breaking of the silver cord of this covenant, which knit innocent man to God, causing him to live, and live prosperously, as long as it was unbroken; but being broken, that union and communion was dissolved, and they parted (Isaiah 59:2). Thus man was separated from the fountain of life, upon which death necessarily ensued.
2. Natural death, which is the death of the body. This results from the separation of the soul from the body. It is two fold--stinged and unstinged death. Unstinged death parts the soul and body indeed, but not by virtue of the curse for sin. This is the lot of the people of God (1 Corinthians 15:55), and is not the penalty of the covenant of works; for that is death with the sting of the curse (Galatians 3:10), which death Christ died, which penalty He paid, and so freed believers from it Galatians 3:13). So that there is a specified difference betwixt the death of believers and that death threatened in the covenant of works; they are not of the same kind, no more than they die the death that Christ died.
3. Eternal death, which issues from the eternal separation of both soul and body from God in hell (Matthew 25:41). This is the full accomplishment of the curse of the covenant of works; and presupposes the union of the soul and body, in a dreadful resurrection to damnation; the criminal soul and body being brought forth from their separate prisons and joined together again, that death may exercise its full force upon them forever and ever. I shall consider THE SEALS OF THE COVENANT OF WORKS, WHEREBY IT WAS CONFIRMED TO ADAM.
It has pleased God to append seals to His covenants with men in all ages, for the confirmation of their faith of the respective covenants; and this covenant seems not to have wanted some seals appended thereto for the same effect.
1. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). Whatever it was, it was not so called, as having a power really to make men wise. So the tempter pretended (Genesis 3:5), but he was a liar from the beginning (John 8:44). But it was a sign both of good and evil; sealing to him all good while he should abstain from it, and evil if he should eat of it; and so confirming his faith in both parts of the persuasion of it. And eventually, by eating of it, he knew good by the loss of it, and evil by the feeling of it. Though it was not to be touched, it might be seen, even as the rainbow, the seal of the covenant with Noah.
2. The tree of life (Genesis 2:9). The which, though it might be an excellent means of preserving the vigour of natural life, as other trees of paradise also, yet it could not have a virtue in itself of making man every way immortal. But it was a notable sacramental sign of life and eternal happiness, according to the nature of that covenant.
Here, as in a glass, ye may see several things, concerning God, concerning man in his best estate, concerning Christ, and concerning man in his present fallen state.
1. Concerning God, look into this covenant, and behold--
2. Concerning man in his state of primitive integrity.
3. Concerning Christ the Saviour of sinners, behold here--
4. Concerning man in his fallen state.
Of the covenant of works
I. To show WHY GOD ENTERED INTO THIS COVENANT WITH MAN.
1. For His own glory, which is the supreme end of all His actions. More particularly--
2. God condescended to enter into covenant with man for man’s greater good.
II. I come now TO MAKE SOME PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT OF THIS SUBJECT.
1. See here the great and wonderful condescension of God, who was pleased to stoop so low as to enter into a covenant with His own creature.
2. See what a glorious condition man was in when God entered into a covenant with him.
3. See that God is very just in all that comes on man. He set him up with a good stock, in a noble case, making him His covenant party. He gave him the noblest undeserved encouragement to continue in his obedience, and told him his hazard if he should disobey. So that falling he is left without excuse, his misery being entirely owing to himself.
4. See the deplorable condition of all Adam’s posterity by reason of the breach of this covenant. They are under the curse of the law, which is an universal curse, and discharges its thunder against every person who is naturally under that covenant, and has not changed his state.
5. This serves to humble all flesh, and beat down the pride of all created glory, under the serious consideration of the great loss we have sustained by Adam’s fall, and the sad effects thereof upon us. We Have lost all that is good and valuable, the image and favour of God, and have incurred the wrath and displeasure of a holy God.
6. See the unsearchable riches of Divine grace, in providing a better covenant for the recovery and salvation of fallen man.
7. There is no wonder, that however little good is wrought in the world, yet working to win heaven is so frequent. We have sufficient evidence of the covenant of works being made with man as a public person, seeing it is yet natural to us to do that we may live, and to think that God will accept us for our works’ sake.
8. See your misery, all ye that are out of Christ. This covenant is your way to heaven, which is now impossible. Tell not of your good meanings and desires, your repentance, and your obedience, such as it is; and think not to get life, salvation, and acceptance thereby. For the covenant ye are under admits of no repentance, no will for the deed. It requires nothing less than perfect obedience, which ye are incapable to give.
9. Therefore give over this way of seeking life by the broken covenant of works, and come to the Lord Jesus Christ; lay hold on the better covenant, and come up to Christ’s chariot (Song of Solomon 3:9-10), which will drive you safely to eternal life and glory. That chariot which the first Adam drove, went not far till it was all shattered, and made unfit to carry any to heaven. It breaks with the weight of the least sin; and so you can never think it will drive to heaven with you (Romans 8:1-39). But come into the chariot of the covenant of grace, and ye will be safely carried in it to the land of eternal rest and glory. (T. Boston, D. D.)
The law of paradise
A right understanding of this law of paradise is necessary, in order to get a clear knowledge of the most essential and fundamental doctrines of the gospel; and no less necessary in order to detect and refute many great and dangerous errors which have prevailed, and which still prevail, in the Christian world.
I. I am to show that GOD HAS A RIGHT TO GIVE LAW to all His intelligent creatures. It is the part of a superior to give law to an inferior. Every lawgiver must be supreme, in respect to those to whom he gives law. God is by nature supreme in all His natural and moral attributes. His power is superior to the united power of all created beings. His wisdom is superior to their united wisdom. His goodness is superior to their united goodness. He stands supreme among the whole intelligent creation, in point of power, wisdom, and goodness, which are the most amiable and essential qualifications of a lawgiver. This supremacy alone is sufficient to give Him the throne of the universe, and clothe Him with the highest possible authority, to give law to all His intelligent creatures in every part of His vast dominions. But here the important point to be considered is, how God enacts His will into a law or rule of duty to the subjects of His moral government. This He does, by publishing His will to them in a certain manner. By publishing His will, I say, because there is no necessity of His publishing His design, intention or determination. This, as a lawgiver, He has a right to keep a secret in His own breast. But He must publish His will, that is, His pleasure, in order to make His will or pleasure a rule of duty of legal obligation. And He must also make it known in a certain manner, to give it the force and obligation of law; or in other words, He must publish His will in the form of law.
1. In the first place, He must specify the persons or beings to whom He speaks authoritatively.
2. Secondly, He must express His will in the form of a precept, or a prohibition, in order to clothe it with Divine authority.
3. Besides, thirdly, He must threaten to punish those who disobey His precepts or prohibitions, in order to give His will the form and force of law. There can be no precept nor prohibition without a penalty expressed or implied. The penalty is the sanction of a law, and expresses the whole authority of the lawgiver.
II. It is now easy to show that GOD DID GIVE A PROPER LAW TO ADAM respecting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. These words were addressed to Adam personally; they contained a precise prohibition, which was sanctioned by a precise penalty. Adam was the very person prohibited; the thing prohibited was his eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and the penalty annexed was death: “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” This was a proper law in distinction from any covenant, or constitution.
III. I am next to show WHEREIN THIS LAW OF PARADISE WAS LIKE ALL OTHER DIVINE LAWS. Here it is easy to mention several important points of resemblance.
1. It was like all other Divine laws in its nature. Every Divine law which was given to Adam, and which has ever been given to his posterity, has required the heart, or internal holiness.
2. The law respecting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was like all other Divine laws in its extent. It extended to all who were specified in it, and to no others.
3. The law of paradise was like all other Divine laws in regard to its condemning power. Every Divine law has a condemning power; that is, a power to condemn those who are bound by it, and actually transgress it. And the law given to Adam, respecting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had the same condemning power, and did actually condemn those who were guilty of eating the forbidden fruit.
IV. Wherein the law respecting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was UNLIKE SOME LAWS which God has given to mankind. And here I can think of but one point of difference worthy to be mentioned; and that is, in respect to duration. This law was given to our first parents, to try their love and obedience; and as soon as it had answered this purpose, it ceased of course to have any legal force or obligation.
V. WHAT PUNISHMENT THE LAW THREATENED TO ADAM, IN CASE OF DISOBEDIENCE. The words of the law are plain and explicit. “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.” (N. Emmons, D. D.)
The threatened death
Our business in now to consider the import and the extent of this penalty. What are we to understand by this threatened death? What is the true construction of the language: “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”? Let us first inquire whether bodily death, the dissolution of the physical organization, is embraced in the threatened penalty? Is there good ground to believe, either from the teachings of Scripture, or from any other source, that this is at least a part, if not the whole, of the punishment which was denounced and executed on our first parents? We answer at once that we know of no reason whatever for thus thinking. That corporal death does not include the whole of what was threatened, we suppose that there is little occasion for attempting to show to any here; and I hope to be able to convince the most of you, in the course of my discussion, that there is no evidence that it constitutes any part of the original threatening. I will not say that physical pain and bodily dissolution are not and cannot be, in any case, the fruit of sin and a part of its punishment; but there is force in the allegation, that as sin is the transgression of a moral law, and a moral offence, its proper punishment should first and chiefly be looked for in a disturbed state of the moral feelings and the moral relations. Since the seat of sin is the mind, it is mainly, no doubt, in the mind that its punishment should be sought. We cannot argue from the words in the text--“Thou shalt surely die”--that bodily death forms any part of the evil thus signified. This language may just as well be interpreted of moral or spiritual death, as of corporeal. The terms “die” and “death” are often used in the Bible to denote nothing beyond spiritual death, or that state of mind, that feeling of guilt, condemnation, and misery, which immediately succeeds the transgression of the Divine law. But is there not a reason, in the language of the threatening itself, which unavoidably drives us to the spiritual sense? The terms employed are: “IN THE DAY THAT THOU EATEST THEREOF, thou shalt surely die.” Now if we suppose here any reference at all to bodily death, if we consider this idea as in any manner included in the expression, “Thou shalt surely die,” we at once involve ourselves in a great and apparently inextricable difficulty. We compromise the veracity of God; we make Him pronounce a sentence which He does not execute; for Adam and Eve did not die corporeally, did not suffer the extinction of their natural earthly life the very day in which they partook of the forbidden fruit, but lived, according to the account which we have of them, hundreds of years after this time. Is there, then, any way of avoiding the conclusion that bodily death is no part of the threatening pronounced against them? I certainly know of none. Let us see, however, what has been offered in order to meet this difficulty. It has been maintained by some, and is perhaps the common view, that although Adam and Eve did not actually suffer bodily death on that day, yet they then became mortal; they underwent a sudden change in their physical organization, which made them liable to death, and rendered it certain that their bodies would ultimately decay and perish. Death, according to this view, then began to work in them, inasmuch as they then became liable to bodily pains and diseases, which, by the appointment of the Creator, end in corporeal death. Now, satisfactory and consistent as this explanation may have been deemed by many, I trust I shall disturb no one in saying, that it is wholly incapable of support. It is, in fact, a mere supposition, invented, I believe, for the purpose of escaping a difficulty; and a supposition in favour of which there is not a particle of evidence. Especially we cannot accept it, when there are against it these two objections; first, that it assigns to the word “die,” a meaning which it never has elsewhere, that of becoming liable to die; and hence, secondly, that it assumes that man was created physically immortal, endowed not only with an immortal soul, but with an equally immortal body; since otherwise his sin could not be spoken of as making him mortal. Let us then examine more particularly this assumption, that man had at the beginning a naturally imperishable body. The most that can be said of it is, that it is a mere human opinion, devoid of any precise and express warrant from the Bible. We believe that they received from their Maker a body which was subject to old age, decay, and death; and that their sin produced in them no immediate change in this respect. They were subject from the beginning to the great law of mortality, and had they always maintained their integrity, would, at the proper time, have passed out of their original corporeal life into some higher state of existence. The mere statement of this view is already some evidence of its correctness; for it corresponds in no way with our conceptions of the high dignity and destination of these first sharers of our nature, to suppose them encumbered forever with the shackles of a coarse material body, appointed always to dwell on the earth, and denied any other knowledge and happiness, than what might come to them in this region and under these physical conditions. The garden of Eden was, at best, but the fit receptacle of their infancy; and after a suitable time passed on earth, a period of existence in the body, it must have been the intention of their Maker to take them up, by translation, if not by death, to a nobler sphere. This view recommends itself to us as intrinsically reasonable. It accords with all our best and most natural conceptions. But we have, in favour of the view, something more than this strong internal recommendation, this conformity with our natural ideas of the high destination of man. The Scriptures themselves lend it their decisive confirmation. They teach us that the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; that He gave him for food every herb bearing seed, and every tree yielding fruit; and that He commanded him to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it. This is an account of man, not as affected by sin, but as he was from the beginning. It is the description of his physical origin, of his sustenance, and of his appointment to exist in a succession of generations, till the world should be filled and subdued by his multiplied descendants. Now, can we fail to see, in all these carefully enumerated circumstances, the sure marks and evidences of a law of individual decay and dissolution? Is it not here clearly implied that our first parents were not exempted from any of the physical wants and changes which belong to men in general? Further evidence that man was created mortal is found in the sentence pronounced on him at the time of his transgression. The substantial import of the curse is: While thy life lasts, thou shalt toil for its support, and have experience of sorrow. The words take for granted that the bodily life was limited; but they do not at all intimate that it then became so; that the sin, just committed and now punished, had limited this life. Far less do we find in them any allusion to a suddenly produced change in the physical constitution, by which this, created immortal, was now rendered mortal. On the whole, these intimations in Genesis (and we know of no conflicting statements in other parts of the Bible) lead us to conclude that the bodily constitution of Adam and Eve was, from the beginning, in every respect essentially like our own. They had just such skin and bones, just such muscles and nerves as we have. They fed on similar food, and would just as surely have hungered and died without it. They were placed in like relations to all natural agents and natural laws. A further support to the view here urged is found in the fact that Christ came on earth in a mortal body. As He was wholly free from sin, and an example of the right condition of our nature morally, so we cannot help viewing Him as exempted from any liability to physical sufferings, which were not common also to our first parents before the Fall. If these were created with a body incapable of pain, want, and death, then they were thus far distinguished above Christ, the Lord from heaven. But this is a highly improbable supposition. We add that it did not belong to the design of Christ to save any from corporeal death. Still His salvation must be commensurate with the evils caused by sin; and we hence infer that a liability to physical death is not among these evils. Our Saviour nowhere teaches us to look upon the death of the body as in itself an evil, and to see in it a proof of our guilt. There is no difficulty in admitting that sin may render the prospect of dissolution and of what lies beyond it sad and fearful, while yet it is true that men would suffer dissolution if they had not sinned. Sin may not have brought in corporeal death, any more than it brought in the destination to a continued and endless life after this death; but yet it may have darkened the view and the contemplation of both, and particularly of the latter. Returning, then, to the question, In what consisted the penalty inflicted on our first parents for sin? we have no hesitation in replying, that it consisted essentially in spiritual death, or in a state of condemnation before God, with such superadded physical sufferings, corporeal death excluded, as are traceable to sin. The penalty of their transgression lay emphatically in that state of mind which is always the appointed result of transgression. Adopting this view, we have no difficulty in giving their full force to all the words in the text: “In the day that thou cutest thereof thou shalt surely die.” The execution of the penalty thus corresponds perfectly with the threatening. The very day of the commission of the sin is the day of its righteous visitation. A spiritual punishment alights on the offenders, and enters into their very souls. They fear the presence of their Maker, and hide themselves from Him amidst the trees of the garden. This view saves the Divine veracity. It recommends itself to our sense of what is right and proper. It places the main punishment of the sin in the fit place, in the mind and the conscience of the sinner. It maintains the supremacy of the moral, instead of half sacrificing it to the material. Let us learn from what has been said, to regard, not bodily death, but sin, as the great evil which we have to fear. The death of the body, when not caused, and not hastened by sin, is never in itself an evil; but an uncorrected sinful character is always a fearful evil. The state of an unholy soul is as wrong now as it would be seen to be, if suddenly unclothed, and summoned into the world of spirits. It could carry thither nothing but its character, nothing but itself, as its own life education had made it. Let us then all seek to give a wise direction to our thoughts. Let us recall them from the material to the moral, from the perishable to the imperishable, from the accidental to the essential. (D. N. Sheldon, D. D.)
1. It was a needful prohibition. To remind man that he is not absolute sovereign, only vicegerent.
2. It was but one prohibition, Man was not burdened, or fretted, or perplexed with many points of this kind. Only one! How gracious! How considerate, as if God sought to make man’s trial the least possible, so as to leave him without excuse if he should disobey.
3. It was a simple prohibition. It had nothing intricate or dark about it. There was nothing mysterious about it, nothing in which man could mistake, nothing which could leave room for the question, Am I obeying or not? It was distinct beyond the possibility of mistake.
4. It was a visible prohibition. It was connected with something both visible and tangible. It was not inward, but outward. It was not a thing of faith, but of sight. Everything about it was palpable and open-the tree, the fruit, the place, the threat, the consequences.
5. It was an easy prohibition. Man could not say it was hard to keep. He was only to refrain from eating one fruit. Being a negative, not a positive requirement, it reduced obedience to its lowest form and easiest terms. Hence man’s sin was the greater. He was wholly inexcusable.
6. It was enforced by a most solemn penalty. It began with a declaration of God’s will, and it ended with the proclamation of the penalty--death. How much this expression includes has been often disputed. There is no need of this. In the day that man ate of the tree he came under condemnation; he became a death-doomed man; the sentence went forth against him. This death brought with it all manner of infinite ills and woes. It brought with it or included in it, condemnation, wrath, misery, separation from God; all endless; all immediate; all irreversible, had not free love come in; had “grace not reigned through righteousness, unto eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The sentence was, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” But “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (H. Bonar, D. D.)
The first law
The first word God spake to man was a blessing; the second word was a law. We might have anticipated this. It seems the natural expression of the relationship which exists between the Creator and His creature. The commandment given was a very simple one, “Thou shalt not eat of the tree of knowledge.” We are almost involuntarily reminded of the words of Naaman’s servant--“My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” Doubtless, in this morning of creation, Adam’s soul, filled to overflowing with gladness, was ready to break forth, and say, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?” No thank offering could have seemed too great for God, no tribute of love too costly. The language of his worship could only be, “Of thine own, I give thee.” And yet it was a little thing which God asked of man, for” to obey is better than sacrifice.” Think, how great, how abounding was the provision for Adam; how narrow the prohibition. It was a small thing that God demanded; but a great ruin was involved in the withholding of obedience. We wonder to see how slight was the thread to which a world’s destinies were suspended. Blind fools we are, slow to learn the lesson taught in every page of the Bible, and in every dispensation of personal providence, that there is nothing trivial with God. He makes great matters to turn on imperceptible hinges. We have no spiritual microscope wherewith to read that fine writing of the eternal finger of God upon every grain of ocean sand, and every glittering mote in the sunbeam, telling us of “a purpose under the heaven.” Curious men have striven hard to discover what the forbidden tree of knowledge was: they would fain study the physiology of that “fruit, which brought death into our world”; but surely, there was no physical quality in that tree to enlighten the mind; it received its name, because by eating it, in transgression of God’s law, man obtained the bitter knowledge of evil as an antagonist of good: the act of feeding upon its fruit taught him that there was misery as well as blessedness, darkness as well as light, evil as well as good. God called the tree according to His foreknowledge; Adam only saw the fitness of the name, when, having eaten, his eyes were opened, and he knew his ruin. There is one thing which calls, I think, for particular attention in the first law. It is, that there was no independent intrinsic evil in the forbidden act; it was evil only because God’s law stood against it. If God had spoken of intrinsic evil to Adam (I use the word intrinsic, because I know no better word to express my meaning, evil, per se) he would not have understood that which was said. If God had said, Thou shalt not kill, or Thou shalt not lie, Adam would have been utterly unable to comprehend the words. He had not yet learnt the nature of evil. God took an act that was in itself perfectly innocent, and by forbidding it, He made it sin in Adam. I trust I shall not be mistaken here. I do not say, God made Adam to sin; but I say, God’s law prohibiting an action, caused that action to be sinful in His creature. This is, indeed, a great lesson for us, and one which we are very unwilling to learn. God’s law is as sovereign as His love. It is not necessary that a thing should be essential evil to meet with His disapprobation; it is enough that His will is against it. Behold, then, the severity of God, and fear before Him. There is no such thing as good by His law condemned. There is no such thing as evil by His law commanded. (The Protoplast.)
There need not, I think, be any reasonable difficulty in finding out the meaning of these trees. Make the statement historical, or make it parabolical, and it comes much to the same thing. It means that there is a permanent line separating obedience from disobedience; that all created life is limited; and that whoever breaketh through a hedge a serpent shall bite him. These trees were not traps set to catch the man; they were necessities of the case. They showed him where to stop. Wonderful, truly, that if he touched the tree of mystery he should die I Yes, and it is grandly and solemnly true. It is so with life. Let life alone if you would live. Receive it as a mystery, and it will bless you; degrade it, abuse it, and it will slay you in great wrath. It is the same with light. Pluck the sun, and you will be lost in darkness; let the sun alone in his far-off ministry, and you shall never want day and summer. It is the same with music. Open the organ, that you may read its secret, and it will fall into silence; touch it on the appointed keys, and it will never tire in answering your sympathetic appeals. It is so difficult to be satisfied with the little we have and the little we know. We want to see over the hedge. We long to withdraw the screen that is everywhere trembling around us. We torture these little pulses of ours to tell us what they are, and how they were set a-ticking in their warm prisons. No man ever saw his own heart! There it is, knocking in his side, as if it wanted to come out; but if you let it out, it can return to its work no more! It seems to be only the skin that covers the pulse, but, though seemingly so near, it is really so far! “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” said the Almighty. This is not a threat. It is not a defiance or a challenge. It is a revelation; it is a warning! When you tell your child not to touch the fire or it will be burned, you do not threaten the child: you warn it in love, and solely for its own good. Foolish would the child be if it asked why there should be any fire; and foolish are we, with high aggravations, when we ask why God should have set the tree of life and the tree of knowledge in Eden. These trees are in every family. Yes; they are in every family, because they are in every heart! How near is death. One act and we cease to live. This is true, physically, morally, socially: one act--one step between us and death! (J. Parker, D. D.)
The missionary trees
A good man in Berkshire had a cherry orchard. He bethought himself what he could do for the missionary cause, and at length selected two cherry trees, the fruit of which he would devote himself most sacredly to the cause of missions. When his friends occasionally visited him, he allowed them the full range of his orchard. “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat,” said he, “but of these two trees ye shall not eat--they belong to God.” The fruit was carefully kept separate, was brought to market, and the proceeds remitted to the Church Missionary Society. (Word and Work.)
I will make him an help meet for him
The creation of woman
WOMAN WAS BROUGHT TO MAN IN ORDER THAT SHE MIGHT RELIEVE HIS SOLITUDE BY INTELLIGENT COMPANIONSHIP.
II. WOMAN WAS BROUGHT TO MAN THAT SHE MIGHT BE HIS HELPMEET IN THE STRUGGLES OF LIFE.
1. To develop his intellectual thinkings.
2. To culture his moral sympathies.
3. To aid him in the daily needs of life.
4. To join him in his worship of God.
III. WOMAN WAS BROUGHT TO MAN THAT SHE MIGHT RECEIVE HIS LOVE, PROTECTION, AND CARE. LESSONS:
1. The Divine compassion for a lonely man.
2. That marriage is to furnish man with true companionship of soul.
3. That marriage is to aid man in all the exigencies of life. (J. S.Exell, M. A.)
The creation of woman
1. The occasion.
2. The resolution.
3. The preparation.
4. The presentation. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Loneliness is not good
1. For intellectual development.
2. For moral culture.
3. For true enjoyment. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Loneliness not good
1. For man’s comfort.
2. For man’s employment.
3. For posterity. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The woman a help
1. For assistance in family government.
2. For the comfort of society.
3. For the continuance of the race. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
I. ADAM’S LONELINESS WAS COMPLETE.
II. This complete loneliness was A MARK OF IMPERFECTNESS OF LIFE.
III. This complete loneliness, marking an imperfect life, was THOROUGHLY UNIQUE. (Urijah R. Thomas.)
Genesis of woman
I. EXPLANATION OF THE PASSAGE.
1. A Divine parable.
2. Panorama of emergent woman. It is the golden hour for Divine instruction; for it is in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, that God openeth their ear, and sealeth up their instruction (Job 33:15-16). Wrapped in his deep sleep, Eden’s dreamer beholds the vision of his second self. He sees his Maker taking from out of him one of his own ribs, forming it into a woman, and presenting her in all her glorious beauty to himself, to be to him henceforth that blessed mate for whom he has unconsciously sighed. And so his God has in very truth given to His beloved in his sleep (Psalms 127:2). Nor is it altogether a dream. Awaking from his sleep, he beholds still standing by him the fair blissful vision. Instinctively recognizing the community of nature, he joyously exclaims; “This, now, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this shall be called woman, Isha because from man, Ish, was she taken.”
II. MORAL MEANING.
1. Woman’s formal inferiority to man. Woman, in the matter of outward, formal, scenic authority, is to yield to man. For every kind of organization, whatever it may be, political, military, financial, ecclesiastical, domestic, must have some kind of nominal head, or index finger--e.g., king, president, general, chairman, bishop, pastor, husband. Look at grand old fatherland. According to her theory of Government, England must have a monarch. And who sits on England’s throne today? A woman--a pure, noble, true-hearted woman. But, because Victoria wears a crown as her nation’s emblazoned figurehead, does it necessarily follow that she is intellectually superior to the Disraeli who holds her helm of state; or morally superior to the Spurgeon who preaches that there is another Sovereign, even one Jesus? Quite so is it with woman in her relation to man. According to Holy Scripture, she is subordinate to him. But this subordination implies in no sense whatever any essential inferiority. Woman is man’s peer in all essential capacities--in capacities of sensibility, intellect, moral worth, humanhood. Woman is man’s inferior simply in the matter of scenic, symbolic, formal authority.
2. Woman’s essential equality. Man and woman, considered in their essence, are a unity. But, observe, unity implies complexity; that is to say, unity implies likeness and unlikeness, sameness and difference, community and diversity.
3. Marriage a Divine institution.
4. The earthly marriage a type of the heavenly. (G. D. Boardman.)
God’s provision for man’s needs
I. GOD KNOWS AND CONSIDERS ALL OUR WANTS, AND OUT OR HIS OWN GOODNESS MAKES PROVISION TO SUPPLY THEM. And this--
1. He must do, or else we should often perish.
2. And it is fit He should do so to magnify His free mercies. Let God’s dealing with us move us to deal in like manner with our brethren, considering the poor and needy (Psalms 41:1) after the example of the disciples of Antioch (Acts 11:29).
II. GOD’S PROVIDENCE AND ABUNDANT GOODNESS FAILS US NOT TILL IT HATH SUPPLIED US WITH ALL THAT WE NEED THAT IS FIT FOR US. Let it quiet all our hearts in the consideration of our present condition, when our inordinate lusts provoke us sometimes to causeless complaints and murmurings upon supposed but mistaken grounds. Whereas--
1. Either we have that which we conceive we want, as Hagar wept for want of water when she saw not the well which was fast by her Genesis 21:19). Or--
2. That which we want would do us hurt and no good if we had it, as the Israelites found by experience when they murmured for want of flesh Numbers 11:33).
III. A SOLITARY LIFE IS AN UNCOMFORTABLE AND AN UNPROFITABLE LIFE. From whence, then, came the affecting and admiring of a monastical life which crosseth--
1. The very law of nature by which men are inclined to society; and--
2. God’s ordinance who hath appointed us--
(a) Deprives God of His honour;
(b) Men, and the Church especially, both of that increase of an holy seed, which they might have of the fruit of their bodies, of the comfort of their fellowship, the service of love which they owe, and of the examples of their godly lives;
(c) Themselves in present, of many sweet comforts and needful helps, and hereafter of the increase of their reward enlarged according to the proportion of their present improving of their talents in advancing God’s honour, and seeking and procuring the good of His children.
IV. GOD TAKES NOT NOTICE OF OUR WANTS AS AN IDLE SPECTATORS BUT, AS A FAITHFUL HELPER, PUTS FORTH HIS HAND TO HELP US IN WHAT WE NEED. Let us do likewise--observe, take pity, and relieve.
1. Otherwise our brethren have no benefit by us if we express our compassion in words only, and not in deeds (James 2:16), but provelike clouds and wind without rain (Proverbs 25:14).
2. We make our own thoughts or words evidences against ourselves when we know what our brother needs and help him not, and provoke God to neglect us as we neglect Him. See what He threateneth in such a case Proverbs 24:11-12).
V. GOD MAKES NOTHING BUT FOR SOME NECESSARY USE AND UNTO SOME PROFITABLE END.
VI. A WIFE IS NOT GOOD TILL IT BE NOT GOOD TO BE WITHOUT A WIFE. VII. A MAN MAY, AND IT IS GOD’S WILL THAT HE SHOULD, BE THE BETTER FOR HIS WIFE.
1. Woe be to those foolish wives that pluck down the house which they should build (Proverbs 14:1), proving moths in their husband’s estates by their idleness and wastefulness; and thorns in their sides, vexing those whom they should comfort, with their continual dropping; perverting those whom they should advise.
2. Let every man labour to be the better for his wife, and to that end--
VIII. IT IS ONLY GOD HIMSELF THAT MUST SUPPLY US WITH THAT WHICH WE STAND IN NEED OF.
IX. NOTHING MOVES GOD TO TAKE COMPASSION ON US, TO SUPPLY US IN WHAT WE NEED, BUT HIS OWN BOUNTY AND GOODNESS.
X. A WIFE IS BUT AN HELPER TO HER HUSBAND. Not his guide, for she was created for the man, not the man for her (1 Corinthians 11:9), and that too, inferior unto him, both in dignity, and usually in abilities. So that she is truly and worthily called the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7).
XI. A WIFE CANNOT BE A GOOD WIFE UNLESS SHE BE A MEET AND A FIT WIFE. Answerable, if it may be--
1. In blood and parentage (see 1 Samuel 23:1-29.).
2. In estate.
4. Especially in the temper of her disposition.
5. But above all the rest, in religion; seeing there can be no fellowship of righteousness with unrighteousness, nor of light with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14). Least of all between married persons. (J. White, M. A.)
God’s provision to remedy man’s loneliness
God has always been thinking what would be for the man’s good. How, then, does God propose to meet loneliness? By making another man? Why, when He made a man to keep Cain company, Cain killed him! It would seem to be one of the deepest laws of human nature that man must kill man, and that the only chance of keeping society together is by the marvellous influence of woman. For man to be alone means suicide; for two men to be together means homicide; woman alone can keep society moving and healthful. The woman and the little child are the saviours of social order at this day all over the world. For woman to be alone is as bad as for man to be alone. Safety is in contrast, and in mutual complement. Reverence for womanhood will save any civilization from decay. Beautiful and very tender is this notion of throwing man into a deep sleep to take a rib from him as the starting point of a blessed companionship. So much is always being done for us when we are in states of unconsciousness! We do not get our best blessings by our own fussiness and clever contrivance: they come we know not how. They are sweet surprises; they are born of the spirit, and are as untraceable as the veerings of the wind. This is the course of true love, and of marriages that are made in heaven. You cannot by searching, and advertising, and scheming find out a companion for the lonely soul. She will come upon you unconsciously. You will know her by a mark in the forehead which none but yourself can read. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The creation of woman
I. The Creator’s care of man, and His fatherly concern for his comfort.
1. God’s pity for his solitude.
2. His resolve to provide society for him.
II. The creatures’ subjection to man, and his dominion over them. God brought the animals to Adam that he might name them, and so give a proof of--
1. His knowledge.
2. His power.
III. The creatures’ insufficiency to be a happiness for man. Observe--
1. The dignity and excellency of human nature.
2. The vanity of the things of this world. (M. Henry, D. D.)
Let us speak of--
I. The woman.
1. Her creation.
2. The purpose God had in view in creating her.
II. The wonderful institution by which man and woman are made one. It is wonderful that this institution should be found so early in human history.
III. The glorious union of which this institution is a type. Adam is a type of Christ; and since Christ was the spouse of the Church, then Eve was a type of the Church. And our conclusion therefore is that the marriage of Adam and Eve, and the marriage institute altogether, is typical of the union between Christ and the Church. (T. W. Richards, M. A.)
1. How it is not said by God that it was not good for Adam to be alone, but for man to be alone; thereby in wisdom enlarging the good of marriage to man in general, that is, to some of all sorts, and not tying it to Adam alone, or to any sort only. Again, in saying it is not good, you see what the Lord regardeth in His actions and works, to wit, goodness and profit to the users, how good it may be, how comfortable: which is a good lesson for all such as regard in their deeds, their wills, their pleasures. Sis volo, sic iubeo, So will I, so command I not respecting at all the good of any other. Shall sinful flesh disdain to do what the Lord of lords doth? He, though He have all power and authority, yet will not do only according to that, but He looketh how good it may be that He doth; and shall sinful flesh, dust and earth, upon a little authority be so proud, that their will must rule all actions?
2. Mark it with all your heart, how God doth consider before ever man see the want himself, what may be good for man, and entereth into purpose to make for him, and prepare for him what yet he wanted and had need of, saying, “Let us make man a helper like himself.” Oh, how may we cleave and cling to the providence of this God in all comfort of our minds, that thus thinketh of what may be good for us before ever we think of it ourselves, and not only thinketh of it, but provideth it and prepareth it for us, saying in all matters as in this, Yet my servant such an one wanteth such a help, it is not good for him to be without it; come, therefore, let us prepare it for him, etc.
3. That woman is honoured with the title of a helper, not only showeth the goodness of the institution, as was noted before, but teacheth also how dear and beloved she should be to her husband, for whose good she was ordained and given. Who will not cherish, foster, and love what is given him for a help, not by man, but by God Himself? Her help chiefly consisteth in three things, in bearing him children, the comforts of his life, and stays of his age, which he cannot have without her. In keeping his body holy to the Lord from filthy pollution which the Lord abhorreth. The apostle so teaching when he speaketh thus, “For the avoiding of fornication, let every man have his own wife.” And, thirdly, in governing his house, children, and family, and many ways tending his own person both in sickness and health. These all and everyone are great helps, and therefore the woman justly to be regarded for them.
4. But whereupon was woman made? Surely not of an outward but of an inward part of man, that she might be dear to him even as his inwards. Not of the head of man, lest she should be proud and look for superiority. Not of the foot of man, lest she should be contemned and used as for his inferior; but of his side, that she might be used as his fellow, cleaving to his side as an inseparable companion of all his haps whilst they two live. And as the rib receiveth strength from the breast of man, so doth the woman from her husband: his counsel is her strength, his breast should she account of to be ruled and governed by in all her ways, and seek to please him and ease him from all griefs as she any way can, knowing ever that she is most weak without her husband’s breast, from which cometh all her strength and good comfort at all times. No creature had his mate made of his own flesh but man, and therefore no creature under heaven should be like man in the love of his mate, but man above them all.
5. It is, if you mark it, not only said that God made woman, but that He brought her to man: and thereby we are taught, that marriage is not every meeting of man and woman together upon their own heads, but when God bringeth them together, either to other: and God bringeth not together, except in His fear they meet with consent of parents and such as are interested in them. (Bp. Babington.)
God’s ordinance of marriage
Let us pay particular attention to this language. Probably we have imagined the statement to mean that God would provide for man one who should be a helper to him, and whose nature and character would be suitable to his. Well, the words do mean this; but they mean also something more. Correctly rendered they would run thus: “I will make him a help as over against him”; or, “so as to meet him”: that is to say, “I will create for him one who shall tally and correspond with him as his counterpart.” And the expression seems to point to that oneness in diversity, to that moral, intellectual, and spiritual adaptation of one to the other,--which exists between the woman and the man. Why were the man and the woman not created apart, as the animals were, and afterwards brought together? Because Adam was to be the inclusive head of the human race: all were to be derived from him; he was to be the fountain from which every stream should flow. Therefore it was necessary that woman should not have an independent, but a derived existence--an existence derived from the federal head of the human race. As St. Paul says, “Man is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.”
I. Now in commenting upon the passage, let us take this as the thought which rises first before the mind--THAT IT WERE WELL IF THE RELATION BETWEEN THE TWO SEXES, AND EVERYTHING BEARING UPON THE MARRIAGE TIE, WERE LOOKED UPON AS BEING SOMEWHAT SERIOUS MATTERS. Of course no sensible man would speak in an unnaturally solemn tone about them. He would throw bright and cheerful colours upon the subject of courtship and marriage. He knows that this entrance into life ought to be characterized by joyousness. But yet, underlying the joyousness, there should be, we venture to think, for Christian people, a sense of seriousness and responsibility. Young women, for instance, should understand and value the influence which they exert in the world; whereas, too often, in their intercourse with the other sex, they condone worthlessness of character for the sake of showy and attractive qualities. And as to men, if they would see the relation of the sexes in the light which this narrative of Genesis throws upon it, the), would be more characterized than perhaps they are by chivalrous respect for womankind. They would honour a woman because she is a woman.
II. Our second thought CONNECTS ITSELF WITH THE SUBJECT OF WHAT IS COMMONLY CALLED “WOMEN’S RIGHTS.” Now let us see our way clear in this matter. We do not suppose that the great end of woman is to get married: many say so and think so; but so do not we. Still less do we wish to be understood as implying that a woman is justified in regarding herself, or that others are justified in regarding her, as having in any considerable degree failed of the object of her existence, if circumstances should lead her to remain in a single condition. Yet whilst holding the view of the essential and independent dignity of womanhood, we lament over that mismanagement of human affairs, which necessitates in so many human beings a life of celibacy; and we trace up to the fact of the immense and most disproportionate preponderance of women in our modern civilization, the existence of many of the evils which are sapping the foundations of our social prosperity. “Well,” you may say, “there is the fact: you cannot alter it.” No: I know that we cannot alter it; but we can try to make the best of it. Recognizing that there are, and that as matters now stand there ever must be amongst us large numbers of unmarried women, we would do all we could to make it possible for them, or at least for many of them (for some do not require it), to attain to a position of independence by means of their own honest exertions. This, at the very least, is our duty. But do we fulfil it? Of course we do not. I need not say that in the case of the educated classes, and in the case of those who come immediately below them, the way to independent subsistence for women is barred and blocked up by innumerable obstacles, that the sleepless dragon of popular prejudice guards most of the avenues of access to the golden fruit of honourable success, and that those few women who, as the pioneers of the advance of their sex, contrive by persistent energy to break through the circle of iron that encompasses them, are only too likely to acquire an unattractive and unfeminine hardness, from the very strength of the effort which enables them to force their way. There is something here which is wrong, and wants amending. Our social arrangements necessitate celibacy for hundreds of thousands who, probably, would not embrace that condition by choice. And then we frown upon their efforts if they struggle to maintain--might they be permitted to do so--an independent foothold upon our common earth. One last thing more let me say, and this of the same general character with what I have already ventured to advance. I have no manner of sympathy with the cackle and clatter we sometimes hear about the relative excellencies of the two sexes--about the superiority of one or the inferiority of the other. To me the idea that a woman wants only a “clear stage and no favour,” wants training, and education, and suitable circumstances, in order to develop as big a brain and as vigorous a muscle as man, and so to be able to cope with him in the struggle of life--to me such a thought is unutterably repulsive. The great charm of a woman is that she is diverse from man: not a man in a lower stage of development. She is the complement of the man: her nature, her disposition, her powers, supply what is lacking in his. The two together make a completed orb: apart they are only segments of the circle. But in order to stand in this relation to each other, it is obvious that they must not be alike, but diverse. I believe with our great modern poet, that “woman is not undeveloped man, but diverse.” Nay, and I believe that the sexual differences of character, and disposition, and faculty, and nature generally which exist upon earth, will be found--of course in a certain modified form--to exist in the kingdom of heaven. (G. Calthrop, M. A.)
God does nothing without a purpose: and therefore “the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman.” We can readily understand that, had Eve been builded of the earth as Adam was, there would have been a relationship between them which was never intended. They might have been regarded as bearing towards each other in some degree the tie of a brother and sister, springing from the earth as the parent of both. But the love that was to exist between them was not designed to be the love of relationship, not the love of consanguinity, not the love of a brother and sister. Adam was to love Eve as being essentially a part of himself, as a friend that sticketh closer than a brother, as one that originated in himself, and actually derived her existence from his own body. And the great purpose which the Almighty had in view in this formation of woman was the institution of marriage. So that you are not to regard the formation of Eve simply as a creation of the woman, just as the formation of Adam was the creation of the man; but you must consider it as the production of Adam’s wife, and as having involved in it the Divine purpose of the institution of marriage. And then you see at once why the peculiar process of creation was employed in taking the rib of Adam. And all this shows us and teaches us that marriage is a Divine institution of no ordinary import, and that its vows and obligations are to be regarded as in a high degree sacred. It should never be entered upon inconsiderately, nor should its festivity ever go on to such extent as to blot out its sacred character. If we fail to recognize its Divine appointment, and give it not the reverence which it claims by virtue of its Divinity, how shall we look for the Divine blessing? It should be all love--love from the beginning to the close of the compact; like the ring, which belongs to our ceremony, having no end, emblematic of eternal love. And this is a mystical love: it is not the love which nature plants and nourishes wherever she has established kinsmanship, or where she has joined soul to soul in the bonds of friendship. It is a mystic love, which takes its stand upon Divine institution, and can be traced only to the recorded circumstance of creation--“The rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman.” And it strikes us as a wonderful thing, that this institution should be found so early and so prominently placed among the brief records of creation. We should, perhaps, have rather expected that it would have had its position among the Levitical appointments. It behoves us, then, to inquire whether there was any special purpose of the Almighty, whether there was any hidden mystery involved in the institution. There appears to be something so remarkable in the creation of the woman, and there is something so expressive in Adam’s remark: “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”; and the appointment is altogether so wonderful, that there must be some meaning in the history beyond that which appears upon the surface, and beyond that which our remarks have hitherto included. Now, we know that in many particulars Adam was a type of Christ our Redeemer. “Husbands,” says the apostle, “love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.” And, after speaking and exhorting concerning marriage, he quotes the very words employed by Adam at its first institution, and adds, “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” If, then, Adam was the type of Christ, and Christ is the spouse of the Church, it follows as a logical deduction that Eve was a type of the Church. And our conclusion therefore is this, that the marriage of Adam and Eve, and the marriage institute altogether, is typical and emblematical of the union between Christ and His Church. And thus, in the very first page almost of the Bible (and there is hardly a page or a letter that has not reference to the same wonderful subject), we find redemption hinted at, and a Redeemer pointed out, and a Church suggested. Here is the gospel, here is the glad tidings of mediation in the very alpha of Divine revelation, and it is never lost sight of, even to the omega. And here, then, we arrive at the deep mystery of the marriage institute: here we learn why its appointment is such a prominent feature in the concise history of creation. If, then, we have reasoned correctly, and Eve be thus a type of the Church, then it would prove a matter of profitable investigation to observe how the position and the directions of Adam and Eve apply in their fulfilment to Christ and the Church. But we can only hint at these things, and leave this wonderful subject for private meditation. There can be no question but that the opening of Adam’s side for the formation of Eve had had reference to that opening of the side of the second Adam for the formation of His Church, which took place upon the cross at Calvary; for the Church, the ransomed of Sion, owes all its existence and all its salvation to the water and the blood which issued upon the spear stroke of the soldier, and without which, we are told, there could have been no remission. And this opening of the side also was effected during a deep sleep; for, when the soldiers came to Him, they found that He was dead already: it was a deep sleep, the deep sleep of death. Let us, then, be true to ourselves and to our profession; so that, after having taken upon us the vows of marriage to Christ, we may never be spoken of as a wicked and adulterous generation. (T. W. Richards, M. A.)
The family: its scriptural ideal and its modern assailants
I. THE FOUNDATION OF THE FAMILY IN NATURE.
II. THE IDEAL OF THE FAMILY. The family is one of nature’s combinations, being composed of several constituent parts; and it shows the same properties as are usually found in the other combinations of nature. In such combinations we find two things: first, a natural affinity or attraction of the parts to each other; and second, harmony and repose when the combination is effected, as if some invisible cement has been made use of to bind the whole into one. Harsh, frictional combinations are foreign to nature. The oxygen and hydrogen that combine to form water have a natural affinity to each other, and the product is so beautifully harmonious that no one could have fancied beforehand that water was not a simple substance. The most striking instance of harmonious combination in nature is that of light, where the seven colours of the rainbow give birth to a product in which the faintest trace of discord can never be found. Nature, in arranging her forces, makes a similar provision in that combination which we call the family. The intention of nature, or rather of the Creator, seems obvious here, although that intention is often frustrated by the perversity of man. In the first place, a natural affinity draws the man and woman together. There is not only the natural affinity of the sexes, but there is the individual attraction between one man and one woman, the desire to be closely related to each other, which is the true and natural foundation of marriage. It would be a very low view of the marriage relation that would make it flow from instinct alone. Man is surely much more than an animal. Has he not a spiritual nature that allies him to the higher orders of being, as really as his animal nature allies him to the lower? And when one human being is drawn to another with a view to the closest relation it is possible to form, surely this is not merely an attraction of the animal; the higher nature has a share in it too. We speak, at present, of what seems to be the purpose of the institution. We say that the law of affinity that governs all nature’s combinations leads us to expect that the foundation of marriage should lie in an affinity or attraction, not of one part of man’s nature merely, and not of the lower part of it merely, but of the whole. And when we turn to the Bible we find this view amply confirmed, for it is said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh.” There must be some attraction of the higher nature to draw a man from his father and mother, to whom his best affections would naturally induce him to cling. In other words, true marriage has its foundation in the attractive power of love. And as love is its foundation, so also it is the cement designed to bind the two beings into unity, and give rise to that harmony which we have seen to characterize all nature’s combinations. Differences of temperament, varieties of taste, diversities of will, diverse forms of natural weakness and natural temptation tend naturally to friction and discord. What provision is there in nature to counteract this tendency and secure harmony? Love is the moral cement of nature. By its magi¢ power, different temperaments become the complements of each other, opposing tastes find a method of reconciliation, and even contradictory wills, by learning to take and give, to bear and forbear, become like one. Perhaps it will be asked, Are you serious in affirming that marriage should always be founded on mutual love? Is not such an idea utterly Utopian? It may be: but Utopianism is not always the opposite of truth or of duty. If we were to lay it down as a proper rule of life that men should always speak the truth, it would seem utterly impracticable and Utopian; and yet it is a right and proper rule. When we speak of love we do not mean necessarily the state of ecstatic fervour which is commonly delineated in novels and which is sometimes found in actual life. That real affinity of hearts to each other which is the true foundation of marriage, may be, and often is, much more calm and undemonstrative. There is another important element that enters into the idea of a complete family, and in connection with which, too, provision is made in nature for harmonious combination with the other elements--namely, children. It is not difficult to see, either in theory or in practice, that children may very readily become a most discordant element. To bring about the needful and desirable harmony, the parents are furnished with two things, strength and affection. They have strength of body if not also of mind to enforce what they deem right; but the employment of sheer strength would only stir up the spirit of rebellion, and while producing a temporary submission, make the discord deeper in the end. Hence love, parental love, is supplied, to make the application of strength more smooth and more effective. The two must work together, otherwise evil ensues. Thus we see how, in the case of families, the great law of nature is exemplified which aims at making all combinations harmonious and efficient. If in the case of any family the combination is discordant, it is because the working out of the plan is abused in the hands of frail human beings. For it is a painful fact in this world’s history that nothing so often frustrates the plans of providence as the intervention of man. When Divine arrangements fall to be carried into effect by the blind forces of nature, they are carried out with precision and certainty; but when they are dependent on the intervention of man, bungling and defeat are too often the result.
III. THE PURPOSE OF THE FAMILY.
1. As regards the fellowship of husband and wife. It is to be remarked that the reason which is given in the second chapter of Genesis why God made woman is, that He might furnish the man with a suitable companion; it is not till afterwards that she is named Eve, in token of her motherhood, “because she was the mother of all living.” Scripture views the relation of the married man and woman, therefore, as having an important end to serve in the Divine purpose, even apart from the continuation of the race. Man and woman come into this remarkable relation of unity in order to promote each other’s welfare. True, there is often discord instead of unity. But unity is certainly attained in quite a sufficient number of cases to vindicate the wisdom of the arrangement. One thing is very certain: if this unity be not realized, the relation of husband and wife, instead of being beneficial, must be irksome and even disastrous to both. To be forced to live, eat, sleep, and worship together, while their hearts are at open discord, is simply awful. On the other hand, where there is substantial unity, the necessary interlacing of all the events of their life makes the unity the greater, and invests the relation with a more tender interest and a profounder sanctity. To bear the same name: to spend their days and nights in the same house and chamber; to share the same worldly goods; to be parents of the same children; to be partners of one another’s joys and sorrows, cares and anxieties, perplexities and deliverances; to look to one another for counsel and cheer; to mingle their prayers and thanksgivings as none else can; to look back along the line of their lives, and think of all they have shared; to look forward, and think of the inevitable parting that is coming, and then of the reunion which faith expects; who shall deny that such experiences are fitted not only to deepen the unity which lies at the foundation of the relation, but to elevate the tone of life, purify the character, and sweeten the current of existence, as no other earthly influences can? Where the two are one flesh, there must be no contact with other flesh. And here, too, nature provides an abundant reward for those who are faithful to her order. Nothing keeps the fountain of conjugal love so pure and fresh as absolute faithfulness to the marriage bond. Even in pagan nations, there have been beautiful instances of a happy unity and the highest esteem between man and wife. Joseph Cook, in his Boston lectures, finds much in this connection to vindicate marriage on natural grounds. He instances the case of the wife of Phocion, the great reformer, who, when her husband was refused burial in Attic soil, went by night to burn the body, brought back his bones to Athens, buried them beneath her hearth, and blessed the place that thus afforded protection to the remains of a good and great man, until the Athenians, returning to their right minds, should restore them to the sepulchre of his fathers. More striking is the story told by Cyrus of Panthea, the wife of Abradatus. She loved her husband with a supreme affection. When taken captive by Cyrus, he asked her where her home was. “On the bosom of my husband,” was in substance her reply; and when offered a dazzling position at the Court of Cyrus, she besought them to send her swiftly home. “If ever there was a woman that regarded her husband more than her own soul, she was that woman.” Encouraging him to fight for Cyrus to show his gratitude, she sent him with her blessing to the battle in which he fell. Again she had offers of this world’s glory; again her purpose was declared to be with her husband. “I cannot justify Panthea in everything,” says Mr. Cook. “She had been brought up to the stern opinions which justified suicide. She told her maid to cover her in the same mantle with her husband. Then she smote herself; put her head upon his breast, and fell asleep. Great nature is in that! You wish me to teach what science proclaims respecting family life. I must ask you to go back to the deepest springs of human experience. These women, Phocion’s wife and the wife of Abradatus are sisters to us all, helpers to every age. They are crystalline water bursting up from the innermost rifts of human nature and society, and one in its purity with that rain which falls on all the hills, and is the real source, after all, of every one of these crystalline springs.” Even under Paganism there were thus influences strong enough to realize in at least some instances the true unity of husband and wife, and show to the world what kind of relation it was designed to be. Christianity has brought new influences into the field. A new pattern has been furnished of conjugal unity, and a new force for developing conjugal love (Ephesians 5:25; Ephesians 5:30).
2. The relation of parents and children. Now let us observe that the provision of nature for the bringing up of children is to place them under the charge of their two parents, both possessed of affection towards them, though in somewhat different proportions, and this provision for their upbringing is most essential. An essential desideratum for a child is moral training. Is this too hard and too heavy a task for parents? So it is affirmed by those who disparage the family institute, and who would gather children into barracks or other large establishments, where they would be brought up by the wisest and most experienced of the race, under the best conditions of efficient training. To commit such work to parents of average character, is objected to on two grounds; first, because where it is attempted, the work will be done ill, in consequence of the folly and ignorance of the parents; and second, because in a vast multitude of cases, it will not be attempted at all. That the qualifications needed for the right upbringing of children are within the reach of the ordinary run of parents, is sufficiently clear from the fact, that many a parent, in the humblest ranks of life, has discharged the duty with admirable success. When Dr. Livingstone composed a simple epitaph to be placed on the tombstone of his father and mother, the one thing which he desired to commemorate was the gratitude of their children to God for poor and pious parents. He refused to change the expression into “poor but pious,” because he believed in the beneficial influences of poverty, in the nobility of character which it had fostered in them, and in the good he had got from it himself. Had he been brought up in luxury and splendour he would not have learned the habits that enabled him to open Africa at a cost of painful endurance and unflinching perseverance seldom equalled in the annals of mankind. It is not great intellect nor ample means that enables a parent to give a good upbringing to his children, but conscientious devotion to duty, the spirit of love, and a good example. These are qualities within the reach of every class. Much stress is to be laid on the last point--the good example. In estimating the moral value of the family as a whole, we must not lose sight of the influence which the children often have on the parents. “What I learned from my children” might often be the subject of as interesting a narrative as “What I learned from my parents.” What father has not found occasion to search deeper into truth from the strange questions which children so often put respecting things which older minds are apt to take for granted? The present writer, in his early ministry, had once occasion to hear the spiritual history of an afflicted woman, who was lying in bed, awaiting the last messenger. “For many years,” she said, “I did not see that I was a sinner, I did not think that I had seriously broken any of the commandments of God.
But I had the misfortune to have an only son who ran away from me, and never wrote to me, or seemed to care to hear of me or from me. Then it flashed upon me that I had been just as unmindful of my heavenly Father, as my son had been of me. Though I had not been guilty of open sins, I had utterly neglected my duty to my heavenly Father. The words came into my mind, ‘The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider.’ I got a new light on the whole of my life; I saw myself to be a great sinner; and I got no rest until I came to the cross, and was there sprinkled with the blood that cleanseth from all sin.” The presence of children in a house softens the heart, makes it more human and sympathetic. It brings men down from the stiff and serious attitude of business. It evokes the gentler and the more playful elements of our nature. It keeps the heart young and its affections fresh. But more powerful than anything yet noticed, is the effect on a right-minded man of the thought of his children in reference to his own temptations and dangers. There are evil pleasures whose attraction might prove too strong for some men, if the thought of their children did not come to check them. What would they think if these children were to do the same?
3. We note then, next, the relation of brothers and sisters. In a well-regulated family this is a very important factor. The ideal of the Christian home suggests the thought of Milton’s Comus, where pure-minded brothers, admiring a dear sister’s purity, are concerned lest, alone in the world, she should fall in the way of any of those bloated monsters that would drag even an angel into their filthy sty. But apart from this painful subject, what a blessed provision we have for the spread of mutual benefit in the contrasted qualities of brothers and sisters attached to each other, and deeply interested in each other’s welfare! A great charm in the relation of brothers and sisters comes from the difference in their ages. The power to help on the part of the older is designed to develop the sense of responsibility, and when duly exercised, gives them some share in the parental government, and facilitates the work of the parents themselves. Moreover, there is a development of that tender spirit which intercourse with the weak stirs in the hearts of the strong.
4. In many families, besides brothers and sisters, there are also servants.
5. The friends and acquaintances of a family extend the horizon of interest, affection, and sympathy. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
I. THE MARRIAGE TIE. This is really what it comes to. It is needless to discuss the question whether marriage ought to be dissoluble not only on the ground of adultery, but on that of cruelty, or of habitual drunkenness, or of insanity. The opponents of marriage as it now is, would be satisfied with no such enactments. The contract of marriage must be brought down to the level of a contract between partners in business, and the one must be rendered voidable precisely in the same way as the other. Is this, let us ask, apart altogether from Scripture, a fair or reasonable method of treating the contract of marriage?
1. Does it not overlook the very delicate and solemn nature of the relation established in marriage between man and wife? That contract is indeed without a parallel. It places the parties in a relation of intimacy and delicacy unapproached in any other.
2. This view of marriage subverts the provision of nature for the welfare of the young. What is to become of the children when a marriage is broken up on the ground that the father and mother are tired of each other?
3. An arrangement which would terminate the union of husband and wife whenever they happened to tire of it, would greatly discourage the exercise of forbearance toward each other when differences unfortunately did arise.
4. Such a policy would, moreover, leave little opportunity for repentance and reconciliation. Once the tie was severed, severed it must remain. But it may be contended, that what is called the arrangement of nature is a faulty arrangement, and in practice gives rise to evils so great that in order to remedy them you must have recourse to easy divorces. Are we to exalt into “a plan of nature,” an arrangement which is so painfully fruitful of contention and misery? Yes, it is still the plan of nature; but it is the plan of nature perverted, frustrated, made abortive by some evil habit or vile indulgence which hinders the intention of nature from being fulfilled, as really and as wholly as a nail driven into the works of a watch hinders it from indicating the proper time. First among these perverting influences we must place the habit of drunkenness. Hitherto we have been dealing with the objection on grounds common to the Secularist and the Christian. But we cannot leave the subject without examining it also on the ground of Scripture. Let us remember that, according to Scripture, marriage and the family constitution were instituted while the human race was yet unfallen, and while the relation between God and man existed in all its fulness of blessing. The Fall did not abrogate the institution, but it made a great change in the conditions under which it existed. Discord ensued between man and God, discord in man’s own soul between passion and conscience, discord in his social relations, discord between man and wife. Admitting, then, that in a vast number of cases marriage is the parent of discord and misery, which of two policies is the more worthy of support with a view to remedy this grievous evil? Are we to change the marriage bond as it has hitherto been, make the relation of married persons slack and easy, tie the knot so loosely that a very slight pull will undo it, and place what has hitherto been the most sacred of human obligations at the mercy of the whim of either party? Or shall we try to get this relation penetrated by the love of Christ, to bring the spirit of forbearance and forgiveness to bear on actual divergences, to exalt men’s sense of the dignity and sacredness of the conjugal relation,--symbol as it is of the union of Christ and His Church; shall we try to quicken the consciences of parents in regard to the welfare of their children, to induce them to extend their view beyond the horizon of the present life, and to think of the momentous consequences for evermore of faithfulness on the one hand and neglect on the other?
II. THE NURTURE OF CHILDREN. Another common objection to the family has reference to the best arrangement for bringing up children to be orderly, respectable, and useful citizens. We say it is family life. But in how many instances is the upbringing they get in their homes worse than useless--an education of blows and curses, of drunkenness and debauchery, ofsin and misery. In such cases, no doubt, you must supersede the family. But this is an extreme remedy, applicable only to the very worst case. And before this course is resorted to, every effort should be made to stimulate the sense of parental responsibility. To many it appears not only a simpler but a more efficient remedy for the evils of parental neglect, to take neglected children wholesale from their parents and bring them up elsewhere. But to make a promiscuous practice of this would be to do infinite harm. When Dr. Guthrie instituted his Ragged Schools, he provided no sleeping accommodation for his children; at night they returned to their parents; because of all things he was most anxious to preserve the interest of the parents in their children, and the interest of the children in their parents. We are not warranted to separate the children wholly from their parents except under two conditions: first, When it is certain that the children would he ruined if they should continue to live with them; and, second, when the parents are willing to give them up, let us say for emigration. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
Meaning of wife
And now let us see whether the word “wife” has not a lesson. It literally means a weaver. The wife is the person who weaves. Before our great cotton and cloth factories arose, one of the principal employments in every house was the fabrication of clothing: every family made its own. The wool was spun into thread by the girls, who were therefore called spinsters; the thread was woven into cloth by their mother, who, accordingly was called the weaver, or the wife; and another remnant of this old truth we discover in the word “heirloom,” applied to any old piece of furniture which has come down to us from our ancestors, and which, though it may be a chair or bed, shows that a loom was once an important article in every house. Thus the word “wife” means weaver: and, as Trench well remarks, “in the word itself is wrapped up a hint of earnest, indoor, stay-at-home occupations, as being fitted for her who bears this name.” (Dictionary of Illustrations.)
Woman, a helpmeet
Joshua Reynolds met Flaxman the day after his marriage, and said: “You are a happy man, but you are ruined for an artist.” He told his bride of it in great despondency. “I wanted to be a great artist.” “And, John,” said Annie, with the fire in her eye, “a great artist you shall be!” He always said that was what made an artist of him. There was a young man in Switzerland, engaged in observing and classifying the Hymenoptera of his native land, when he was suddenly smitten with blindness. The calamity was so hopeless that marriage was absolutely forbidden by the father of his beloved. She waited, like a dutiful child, until she was twenty-one years of age; then, without concealment, and, in great sorrow, but honouring her father in disobeying him, she married the scientist, and immediately persuaded him to resume his studies. She carried on his experiments under his direction. She soon became more skilful than he had ever been in watching the operation of the curious creatures. And he became more exact in his generalization, in consequence of being shut up to his own reflections. The result was a work which astonished the world, and remains a classic and the first authority on the subject--the immortal treasure of Huber on bees! What will not the faithful love of a wife accomplish! God in heaven looks down upon nothing on earth so like the paradise above as trustful and helpful married love.
Society in the family
“Family society,” says Henry, “if that be agreeable, is a redress sufficient for the grievance of solitude. He that has a good God, a good heart, and a good wife to converse with, and yet complains that he wants conversation, would not have been easy and content in paradise, for Adam himself had no more.”
That was the name thereof
The naming of the animals by Adam
The man was thus to be made conscious of his lordship over the animal tribes.
2. In token of his relations to them, respectively, he was to give them their respective names.
3. His knowledge of animal nature, (in which he had been created), is at once to be developed, under the special teaching of God.
4. His organs of speech are to be put in exercise.
5. His knowledge of language (Divinely imparted), is to be developed in the use of terms for naming the several classes--under the Divine instruction and guidance.
6. It would seem, from the connection, that the man was to be made sensible of his social need as he should see the animals passing before him in pairs. (M. W. Jacobus.)
Language a Divine gift
The man was created in knowledge, after the Divine image, and thus was endowed with powers of perception and discrimination, by which he could know the habits, characters, and uses of the several species, both of animals and of fowls, yet not without Divine teaching in the matter, and in the use of terms. The names which he gave them were appointed to be their names by which they should be known--and they were, doubtless, significant--as was the name of Eve, (Genesis 2:23), Genesis 3:20. Language itself could not so early have been a human invention, but a revelation. (M. W. Jacobus.)
I. GOD’S MERCIES ARE, OR SHOULD BE, PRECIOUS UNTO US WHEN WE CAN NEITHER BE WITHOUT THEM, NOR HAVE THEM FROM ANY OTHER BUT FROM HIMSELF. That the necessity of creating a woman to be Adam’s helper might be the more clearly discovered unto him, He brings before him the creatures, that out of his own judgment himself might conclude how unit any of them were to be his companions or helpers.
II. WE MUST KNOW THE UNSERVICEABLENESS OF OTHER THINGS, THAT WE MAY KNOW AND APPROVE THE PROFITABLENESS OF THAT WHICH IS TRULY GOOD.
III. GOD CAN ORDER AND DISPOSE OF THE CREATURES TO DO WHAT, AND TO BE WHERE HE APPOINTS THEM.
IV. MAN MAY LAWFULLY USE THAT POWER OVER THE CREATURES WHICH GOD HIMSELF HATH PUT INTO HIS HAND.
V. GOD IS PLEASED TO HONOUR MEN SO FAR AS TO EMPLOY THEM IN MANY THINGS WHICH OF RIGHT BELONG UNTO AND MIGHT BE DONE BY HIMSELF ALONE.
1. To encourage men to His service in honouring them so far as to make them His fellow workers.
2. To unite men the more in love, one to another.
3. To increase their reward hereafter, by the faithful employment of their talents for the advantage of their Master from whom they received them, Matthew 25:21; Matthew 25:23. (J. White, M. A.)
God now proceeds to show man the exact point where the void lay. Adam had been made to feel that void, but God’s object is to place him in circumstances such as shall lead him step by step to the seat of the unsatisfied longing within. Accordingly, God brings before him all the creatures which He had made, that Adam, in his choice, may have the whole range of creation. Adam surveys them all. He sees by instinctive wisdom the nature and properties of each, so that he can affix names to all in turn. His knowledge is large and full; it has come direct from God, just as his own being had come. It is not discovery, it is not learning, it is not experience, it is not memory, it is intuition. By intuition he knew what the wisest king in after ages only knew by searching. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
The first act of man’s sovereignty over the animals
Man was certainly the superior master of nature. This is evident from the next feature which our text mentions. God brought the animals which He had created to man, to “see what he would call them”; and the names chosen by man were to remain to them forever. This is the first act by which man exercised his sovereignty; and although his intellect was not yet roused, he was sufficiently endowed for that task; for he had been capable of understanding the Divine command and of representing to himself death. In the first cosmogony, God Himself fixed the names of the objects which He had called into existence; He determined the appellations of day and night, of heaven, and sea, and dry land. Here He cedes this right to man, whom He has ordained “to have dominion over all the earth.” The name was, according to Hebrew and Eastern writers in general, an integral part of the object itself; it was not deemed indifferent; it was no conventional sign; it was an essential attribute. When God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, the latter hastened to inquire under what name He wished to be announced to the Israelites. When a crisis in the life of an individual was imminent, or had been successfully overcome, his name was changed into another one expressive of that event. Kings, at their elevation to the throne, assumed another name. To “know the name of God” was identical with knowing His internal nature, and even with piously walking in His precepts. The right, therefore, of determining the names includes authority and dominion; but man did not perform this act of his own accord; he did not yet feel his exalted rank; but God, by inviting him to perform it, made him governor over the works of His hands, and placed all under his feet Psalms 8:7). It has been frequently observed, that our text explains the origin of language, and attributes its invention solely to man. Language is, indeed, a spontaneous emanation of the human mind; it is implanted in its nature; in furnishing man, besides his external organization, with reason and imagination, God bestowed upon him the principal elements for communication by speech; it is as natural a function of his intellect as reflection; intelligent speech is one of the chief characteristics of man; hence the ancient Greek poets call men simply the “speech-gifted”; the germ was bestowed by God; man had to do no more than to cultivate it. But our author does not enter upon this abstruse question at all; it is of no practical importance for religious truth; it must have appeared superfluous to one who knows God as the Creator and Framer of all, as the Bestower of every gift, as Him who “has made man’s mouth, and who maketh dumb” Exodus 4:11). Pythagoras, and other ancient philosophers, justly considered the invention of names for objects an act of the highest human wisdom; and the Chinese ascribed it to their first and most honoured sovereign Fo-hi, who performed this task so well, that “by naming the things their very nature was made known.” (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
The origin of language
Was it an invention? So some have taught. Was it the issue of a convention? So some have taught. Was it an imitation of the sounds of nature? So some have taught. Was it a direct gift from heaven? So some have taught. Most erudite men have pondered the problem; and yet all speculation here is quite afloat. And so we fall back on the childlike, pictorial language of time’s most hoary archive: “Jehovah God formed out of the soil every beast of the field and every fowl of the heavens: and He brought them to the man to see what he would call them: and whatever the man should call every living being, that should be the name thereof; and the man gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the heavens, and to every beast of the field.” It was man’s first recorded act. Observe: it was an act of perception, discrimination, description. The animals were arrayed before him; and animals suggest all the phenomena of life. And the vision of moving life stirred up within him the latent capacity of speech. In brief, it was the origin of humanity’s vocabulary. As such, it is a profoundly philosophical account. For nouns, i.e., names, are the rudiments of language, the very A B C’s of speech. Such is the theory of the genesis of language according to Moses. Can your Max Mullers and Wedgwoods and Whitneys give a more philosophical theory? (G. D.Boardman.)
Two-fold use of language
This indicates to us a two-fold use of language. First, it serves to register things and events in the apprehension and the memory. Man has a singular power of conferring with himself. This he carries on by means of language in some form or other. He bears some resemblance to his Maker even in the complexity of his spiritual nature. He is at once speaker and hearer, and yet at the same time he is consciously one. Secondly, it is a medium of intelligent communication between spirits, who cannot read one another’s thoughts by immediate intuition. The first of these uses seems to have preceded the second in the case of Adam, who was the former of the first language. The reflecting reader can tell what varied powers of reason are involved in the use of language, and to what an extent the mind of man was developed, when he proceeded to name the several classes of birds and beasts. He was evidently fitted for the highest enjoyments of social intercourse. (Prof. J. G. Murphy.)
The Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam
The first sleep
How profound is the mystery of sleep! It is one of those riddles of familiar life of which we know so little; about which thought will occupy itself and fancy speculate.
Sleep has been beautifully spoken of by the Germans as the “twin brother of death”; and really the more earnestly we regard the subject, the more we see the likeness which has given rise to the observation. But sleep was born in the garden of paradise, ere its beauty faded and its glory grew dim; death sprung into existence amid the gloom and sorrow of a darkened world. Sleep came to man as a blessing: death as a curse. Strong as is the resemblance, there are points where it fails; but, since the Fall, sleep has become more like death; since the resurrection of Christ, death has become more like sleep. We who have sinned--in our sleep “die daily”; we who are redeemed--in our death “sleep in Christ.” I think we have every reason to receive the words of the text as a record of the first sleep. Whether, as the nights of Eden came round in their starry and cloudless beauty, they brought to the first man the repose of sleep, alternating with his pleasant occupation of keeping and dressing the garden, I cannot tell; but I think the first sleep was not of this character; it has something special and peculiar in it, occurring by the direct interposition of the Creator. “The Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept.” What a blessed sleep it proved! The first sleep has been succeeded by the troubled, diseased, and pain-fraught slumbers of a fallen race; and for us the mystery is mingled with fearfulness. I purpose to say a few words on the four kinds of sleep which naturally suggest themselves to the mind while musing on the subject of somnolency.
I. THE DEEP, OR DREAMLESS SLEEP, of which the first sleep was peculiarly the type and pattern. The physical condition of this sleep appears to be simply this, that the senses, tired from use, or acted upon by some influence from without, refuse to do their office, and cease to give to the soul intelligence of the external world. It is remarkable to think how, in such a sleep, all those functions of the body which are necessary to it as an organic structure, and which are generally performed without the soul’s recognition, or particular notice, such as the pulsation of the heart, the circulation of the blood, the digestion of our food, go on uninterruptedly: but just those parts of our system which are the especial channels of communication between outward things and the reasoning, immaterial essence are affected. Surely there is a fearfulness in sleep. The soul, unconscious of its fleshly companion, exists in some strange state of suspension, hid in the hollow of its Creator’s hand, and overshadowed by His covering wings. It is not with the present world of realities; nor with the past world of memory; nor with the future world of promise; but, held in life by the Preserver of men, and compassed about with Divine power, it waits the body’s fitness to be used again. Such a state, indeed, is inconceivable; we can only refer the fact to the infinite and wonder working operation of God. It is the current supposition that the dreamless sleep is common at the present day. I have long had my doubts, however, whether since the Fall, men have ever slept this sleep. So completely do I look upon dreaming as one of the strongest physical effects of the Fall, I am inclined to think it always accompanies slumber, except when vision takes its place; and that what we imagine to be a dreamless sleep is only one in which our dreams are unremembered when we wake. This is somewhat confirmed by the fact of forgotten dreams being suddenly recalled to the mind, by some circumstance occurring hours or days after. It is very seldom indeed that we retain a recollection of what we have dreamed, immediately on awaking: the recall to the mind of the impressions it has received in sleep is generally incidental, and brought about by some connection with waking thoughts.
II. THE SLEEP OF DREAMS. It is no uncommon thing to pursue a long and connected train of thought in sleep. The Bible is full of instances of God’s speaking by this mode to His servants; and although we live in the days of gospel light, and not in the days of Urim and Thummim, dream and vision, shall we positively affirm that God never now by the instrumentality of dreams communicates warning and strength to His Church? Shall we altogether slight and scorn the testimony of John Newton concerning his dream of the ring? I think not. And yet let us not be idle, superstitious observers of dreams, they are but the “divers vanities” of a fallen nature. If they weigh with us and depress our minds, let us carry them to God; if they afford us comfort in a time of sorrow, let us bless Him who useth the weak and the dishonourable things of this world to show forth His praise.
III. THE MESMERIC, OR ARTIFICIAL SLEEP.
IV. THE TRANCE, OR SLEEP OF VISION. (The Protoplast.)
I. EVEN SLEEP AND QUIET REST ARE GIVEN BY GOD HIMSELF, AND THEREFORE ARE TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED AS HIS BLESSINGS.
II. THOUGH GOD BE PLEASED TO MANIFEST HIS WORKS TO MEN, THAT THEY MAY BEHOLD THEM YET THE MANNER HOW THEY ARE WROUGHT IS USUALLY HIDDEN FROM THEIR EYES.
III. GOD TAKES CARE OF US, AND PROVIDES FOR US, EVEN WHILE WE SLEEP, AND THINK NOT ON OUR OWN AFFAIRS. And this as--
1. He can do because He neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalms 121:3-4). So,
2. He doth--
IV. GOD DELIGHTS TO VARY HIS WAYS IN ALL HIS OPERATIONS. Matter is sometimes rude and unprepared, sometimes fitted for the effect to be produced, as seeds to produce herbs and plants. And so are His ways of working sometimes by means, sometimes without: sometimes by means agreeable, otherwise by contraries. All this He doth to manifest--
1. His infinite wisdom (Psalms 104:24).
2. His almighty power, appearing in this, that He ties Himself to no means nor manner of working, but brings to pass anything by what way He pleaseth; so that the effect appears not to depend upon any means, but only upon the power of Him that worketh all in all.
3. That He may entice us by such variety, to search into His ways as His works are sought out by those that have pleasure therein (Psalms 3:2).
V. GOD’S WAYS AND WORKS ARE ORDINARILY FULL OF HOLY INSTRUCTIONS.
VI. THE WIFE MUST BE NEITHER HER HUSBAND’S LORD NOR VASSAL.
VII. A WIFE IS, OR SHOULD BE, A STRONG HELPER TO HER HUSBAND.
VIII. GOD REQUIRES NOTHING OF US, NOR DOTH ANYTHING UNTO US, THAT MAY HURT US, OR UNDO US. Let nothing be grievous unto us that God either commands or lays upon us; remembering--
1. That He may do with His own what He will.
2. And yet He hates nothing which He hath made.
3. And He can and will not fail to restore unto us abundantly, whatsoever we seem to lose, either in doing, or suffering by His appointment, that He may be no man’s debtor.
IX. GOD TAKES NOTHING FROM US BUT HE TAKES CARE TO RECOMPENSE IT UNTO US, SOME WAY OR OTHER.
X. IT IS USUAL WITH GOD TO LEAVE WITH US NEAR AND LIVELY REMEMBRANCES BOTH OF HIS MERCIES TO US AND OF OUR DUTIES. (J. White, M. A.)
I. GOD CAN CHANGE ANYTHING INTO WHAT FORM HE PLEASETH.
II. GOD IS EXACT AND PERFECT IN ALL THE WORKS THAT HE UNDERTAKES.
III. WOMEN, AS WELL AS MEN ARE GOD’S OWN WORKMANSHIP.
IV. GOD HATH ALLOWED BUT ONE WIFE TO ONE MAN.
V. THOUGH ALL THINGS BE MADE FOR MAN, YET HE CAN HAVE NO INTEREST IN ANYTHING UNTIL GOD HIMSELF BESTOW IT ON HIM. Yea, when God hath put men’s estates into their hands, yet our Saviour directs us to beg our allowance out of them from God, for the portion of every day.
1. Because all that we have or use is God’s, who only sends them to us for our use, reserving the propriety of all to Himself.
2. That we may use all according to His direction, and not according to our own lusts.
3. That we may upon the better grounds expect His blessing upon that which we use, without which it cannot profit us.
VI. EVERY CHILD OF GOD MUST DESIRE TO RECEIVE HIS WIFE FROM GOD’S HAND.
1. By making choice of such a person, as is of His family, with whom He may converse as an heir with him of the grace of life.
2. Labouring to gain her by warrantable ways, prayer, advice, and mediation of godly friends, holy conferences, and godly propositions, not by carnal allurements, deceitfulness, enticements, or violent importunities.
3. And aiming at a right end therein, rather our increase in piety, and the propagation of an holy seed, than the advancing ourselves in our outward estates: remembering--
1. That God only (who looks not as man on the outward appearance, bit seeth the heart) is able to direct us in our choice.
2. That it lays upon us a strong engagement to make an holy use of marriage, when we thus lay the foundation of it in His fear.
3. That it sweetens all the crosses which we may meet with in a married life; being assured, that if they fall upon us by His hand, they shall by Him be so sanctified unto us, that they as all things else, shall work together to our good. (J. White, M. A.)
I. GOD’S BLESSINGS OUGHT TO BE ENTERTAINED AND EMBRACED BY US WITH A HOLY REJOICING AND THANKFULNESS. This rejoicing must be--
1. In God, and not in ourselves; not so much that it is well with us, as that God’s honour, in His mercy and truth, is manifested and advanced thereby.
2. And performed with fear and trembling (Psalm if. 11); and infinite abasement of ourselves before Him, upon the apprehension of our own unworthiness, of so great favours, after David’s example (2 Samuel 7:18). And--
3. May be publicly testified when God’s favours are eminent and public, and especially when the Church is any way concerned in them: whence David, being a public person, promiseth a public thanksgiving in the congregation for those mercies, which though they lighted on Him, yet redounded to the benefit of his people also.
II. WE MAY AND SHALL KNOW AS MUCH OF GOD’S WAYS AND WORKS AS CONCERNS US, FOR THE DIRECTING AND QUICKENING OF US UNTO OUR DUTIES. As--
1. That they are the works of His own hand (Psalms 64:9).
2. And those wrought in righteousness, mercy, and truth.
3. And for His only glory (Proverbs 16:4); and for our good, unto which all things work together (Romans 8:28); that men may fear, and trust in Him (Psalms 64:10).
III. IT IS CONSENT THAT MUST MAKE THE MARRIAGE BETWEEN MAN AND WIFE.
IV. EVEN THE BEST AMONGST MEN NEED TO BE MINDED BOTH OF THEIR DUTY AND CONDITION EVERY WAY. (J. White, M. A.)
I. THE POSITION AND DESTINY OF WOMAN.
1. Her position is inferior and subordinate. If the Scripture speaks plainly on any point, it most unequivocally asserts the superiority of man over the woman, both in his nature and in the sphere which by Divine appointment he is to occupy. How strange, then, it is, that our day should have given birth to so many schemes for raising her to the level of him, unto whom the supremacy has been so distinctly given. Even in innocence we have seen that woman was not man’s equal: Eve, in her unsullied purity, was content to take a lower place than Adam, and to serve him according to God’s ordinance. Experience confirms the truth stated in the Word of God--the inferiority of the female character. That woman’s physical strength is less than that of man, is almost universally acknowledged. In all cases where power and daring are required, the work is given to man. From scenes of terror and danger woman instinctively shrinks, and man instinctively shields her. If it be said that the historic page records instances of her passing through them with undaunted mien; if the name of a Joan of Arc be cited as a witness to disprove my statement, I only answer, that the exception proves the rule. Is it not equally true, that woman’s mental strength is less than that of man? Should it be urged, again, that the name of a De Stael, a De Genlis, or a Somerville certifies the possibility of the highest masculine mind being enshrined in a female form--if I admitted this--I would say, again, the exception proves the rule: but while I do not deny that a woman of the noblest and most exalted intellect may be superior to men of ordinary talent around her, I do not hesitate to say she is inferior, in her greatness, to a man of the highest genius. Compare woman at her best estate, with man at his best estate, and the disparity will tell itself strikingly. There has been no Isaac Newton in the ranks of the weaker sex. According to the woman’s nature, God has appointed her position in the world. She is “not to teach”; she is “not to usurp authority over the man”; she is to be in “subjection,” and “under obedience.”
2. Her destiny is to occupy the next rank to him who was made “a little lower than the angels”; to share with him the government of the animal world; to stand by his side in all the life of the present; to give herself unto him, with all her powers, and all her affections; to sacrifice herself for him, with her peculiar devotedness and concentration of purpose; to draw near unto him when the society of his fellow man would be insupportable; and to speak to him when the voice of his fellow man would be jarring and discordant; to sympathize with him in the hour of sorrow; to cheer him in the hour of sickness; to re-animate him in the hour of listlessness; to aid him in the hour of difficulty; to encourage him in the hour of temptation: to be, in fact, his companion, his comfort, his cooperator, his friend. But, moreover, this destiny, under a dispensation of redemption, is to participate with him the blessings and privileges of the New Covenant--to share with him the duties and hopes of an inner and spiritual life; to receive with him the gift of immortality; to hold with him the title deeds of an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in the eternal heaven. Surely there is nothing necessarily degrading in such a lot! All the ignominy and misery attached to it have been the effect of the woman’s sin, and the woman’s curse. We may say, in conclusion, using the apostle’s words, “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”
II. THE PREPARATION NECESSARY FOR WOMAN’S WORK.
1. As a most important self-discipline, I would mention, first, that progressive cultivation of the mind which is carried on when the time for compulsory study is passed. There has been no mistake so fatal to the elevation of female character as the idea, that when the rubicon of the eighteenth year is crossed, a life of so-called pleasure, that is, a life of idleness and dissipation, is to succeed a life of mental application.
2. A woman’s preparation for her office is greatly brought about by an experience of suffering. Sorrow, sanctified and sacred sorrow, gives the finest touches to her character. It produces in her that exquisite refinement of feeling, that acute susceptibility, that deep sympathy, for which woman is so distinguished.
III. Woman’s WORK itself. After all I have written, will it be thought strange if I say, that its nature may be expressed in one comprehensive word--ministration! It must be remembered that we are not considering woman in her direct relations to God as His creature, but in her direct relations to man as his help. In this point of view, her work may be regarded as consisting in ministration to man. In mental ministration, or a service unto his mind. In corporeal ministration, or a service unto his body. In spiritual ministration, or a service unto his spirit.
1. Mental ministration. Woman, as we have seen, meets man, not upon the footing of a passive slave, but of an intelligent assistant. It is her office to share his intellectual pursuits, and to aid him in his researches after natural knowledge and scientific truth. How is she to do this? By bringing her mind to bear upon his; by laying its treasures before him; by entering with appreciation and interest into the details of the discoveries of his genius, or even of the speculations of his imagination; by communicating to him her thoughts on the high and mysterious subjects which engage his attention.
2. Corporeal ministration. It is a woman’s province to provide for man the trifles of life, things which contribute greatly to his comfort, and which are yet unworthy to engage much of his time and attention. The constitution of her nature is such, that household arrangements do not have with her that harassing effect on the mind, which is so peculiarly felt by one who would devote himself wholly to higher and more important matters. It is her office then to surround man with little luxuries; to give him little pleasures; to let him feel that he has cared for nothing, and yet has wanted nothing in the domestic economy of each successive day.
3. Spiritual ministration. Woman, as redeemed from the Fall, is a fellow heir with man of the grace of life. She is to walk with him in that narrow path which leads to the heavenly land, and much of her companion’s progress therein depends instrumentally upon her own. Many a man has been hindered in the perfecting of holiness by the burden of a woman who has forgotten to do him service in the best and highest sense. The task of a Christian female is a very glorious one. She is to be the “help” of the servant of God. Living with man, and bound to him by some close tie, it is her part to assist him in the devotion of all his energies to his Creator’s glory; to aid him in his renunciation of the world, by showing that she is contented with the lot of God’s children; to aid him in his liberality to those who are in need by proving that she looks upon money given unto the poor as lent to the Lord, and that she is willing to wait for the redemption of His bond; to aid him in the establishment of righteous authority in his household, by respecting his rule herself; to aid him in his obedience to duty’s call, even when it leads him into the midst of danger, by counting his life less dear to her than his fulfilment of the will of God.
IV. The RECOMPENSE attending woman’s work. A few brief words will suffice for this last division of our subject. The highest recompense of woman consists in the honour and the joy of being employed for God, in the way of His own appointment. The creature’s blessedness is connected with the consciousness of filling the place assigned by Jehovah’s unerring wisdom, and of fulfilling His holy will. In proportion to a woman’s greatness of mind, will be her satisfaction in the thought that she is occupying the station which God intended for her, and that she is accomplishing the service to which He has called her. Moreover, the work of ministration is its own reward. In drawing a woman out of self, in bringing her into sympathetic union with another; in giving her occupation and interest all the days of her life on earth; it is itself a means of happiness. Still God has permitted a further recompense to wait upon a female’s fulfilment of her sacred office. For a married woman there is a peculiarly rich and sweet reward. It is beautifully set before us by Solomon, as a husband’s trust, and a husband’s praise. “The heart of her husband cloth safely trust in her” (Proverbs 31:11). (The Protoplast.)
A wedding sermon
God’s bringing Eve to Adam implieth five things:--
1. His permission, allowance, and grant, for that Adam might thankfully acknowledge the benefit as coming from God, God Himself brought her. This bringing was the full bestowing her upon him, that they should live together as man and wife.
2. His institution and appointment of marriage as the means of propagating mankind.
3. For the greater solemnity and comely order of marriage. Adam did not take her of his own head, but God brought her to him. This honour and special favour God vouchsafeth mankind above all other creatures; He Himself, in His own person, maketh the match, and bringeth them together.
4. To dispense His blessing to them. The woman was created on the sixth day, as appeareth (Genesis 1:1-31); and it is said that when He had “created them male and female, He blessed them” (verse 28). He doth enlarge things here, and explaineth what there He had touched briefly. When He had made the woman, He brought her to the man, and blessed them both together; showing thereby that when any enter into this estate, they should take God’s blessing along with them, upon whose favour the comfort of this relation doth wholly depend.
5. For a pattern of providence in all after times. It is worth the observing, that Christ reasoning against polygamy, from Genesis 2:24, compared with Matthew 19:1-30. God having abundance of the spirit, as the prophet speaks Malachi 2:15), brought the woman to one man, though there was more cause of giving Adam many wives for the speedier peopling of the world, than there could be to any of his posterity. The point which I shall insist on is this:--That marriages are then holily entered into, when the parties take one another out of God’s hands.
I. I will show you in what sense they are said to take one another out of God’s hands.
II. Why this is so necessary to be observed.
I. For the first, THEY TAKE ONE ANOTHER OUT OF GOD’S HANDS TWO WAYS.
1. When His directions are observed.
2. When His providence is owned and acknowledged.
3. When His directions in His word are observed; and so--
2. When His providence is owned and acknowledged. It is the duty of them that fear God to own Him upon all occasions, especially in such a business. Heathens would not begin such a business without a sacrifice. There is a special providence about marriages. God claimeth the power of match-making to Himself, more than He doth of ordering any other affairs of men--“Riches and honours are an inheritance from our fathers; but a goodwife is from the Lord” (Proverbs 19:14).
II. WHY IS THIS SO NECESSARY A DUTY? It doth in a great measure appear from what is said already. But farther--
1. It will be a great engagement upon us to give God all the glory of the comfort we have in such a relation, when you do more sensibly and explicitly take one another out of God’s hands.
2. That we may carry ourselves more holily in our relations, it is good to see God’s hand in them. Every relation is a new talent wherewith God intrusteth us to trade for His glory; and to that end we must make conscience to use it.
3. That we may more patiently bear the crosses incident to this state of life if God call us to them. They that launch forth into the world, sail in a troublesome and tempestuous sea, and cannot expect but to meet with a storm before they come to the end of their voyage. The married life hath its comforts, and also its encumbrances and sorrows. Now it will sweeten all our crosses incident to this condition, when we remember we did not rashly enter into it by our own choice, but were led by the fair directure and fair invitation of God’s providence; we need not much be troubled at what overtaketh us in the way of our duty, and the relations to which we are called. That hand that sent the trouble will sanctify it, or He will overrule things so that they shall work for our good. If God call us into this estate, He will support us in it.
4. We may with the more confidence apply ourselves to God, and depend on Him for a blessing upon a wife of God’s choosing, or a husband of God’s choosing. We have access to the throne of grace with more hope, because we have given up ourselves to His direction--“In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:6).
5. It is a help to make us more ready to part with one another when God willeth it. It is the apostle’s direction--“The time is short, it remains that those that have wives be as though they had none” (1 Corinthians 7:29); not so as to be defective in our love to them and care over them; no, there is rather to be an excess than a defect here--“Be thou ravished always with her love” (Proverbs 5:19); but as to a preparation of heart to keep or lose, if God should see fit, to be contented to part with a dear yoke fellow, or at least with an humble submission and acquiescence, when
God’s will is declared; and somewhat of this must be mingled with all our rejoicings, some thoughts of the vanity of the creature. APPLICATION.
I. Let us seek God by earnest prayer when any such matter is in hand. It is a contempt of God, and a kind of laying Him aside, when we dare undertake anything without His leave, counsel, and blessing; and these are the things we are to seek in prayer.
1. His leave. Adam had no interest in Eve till God brought her to him, and bestowed her on him. Every one of us must get a grant of God of all that he hath; the Lord He possesseth the house that we dwell in, the clothes we wear, the food we eat; and so, in the use of all other comforts, we must have a license from God, and take His leave. God is said to have given David the wives that he had into his bosom.
2. His counsel and direction when the case is doubtful and our thoughts are uncertain--“Lean not to thy own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). We scarce know duties, certainly we cannot foresee events; therefore a man that maketh his bosom his oracle, his wit his counsellor, will choose a mischief to himself, instead of a comfort and a blessing. Therefore we ought chiefly, and first of all, to consult with God, and seek His direction, for He seeth the heart, and foreseeth events.
3. We ask His blessing. God doth not only foresee the event, but orders it; by His wisdom He foreseeth it, and by His powerful providence He bringeth it to pass. Therefore God, that hath the disposal of all events, when our direction is over, is to be sought unto for a blessing; for every comfort cometh the sooner when it is sought in prayer; and whatever God’s purposes be, that is our duty.
II. Advice to persons that are entering into this relation.
1. Negatively. See that God be no loser by the marriage.
2. Positively. Be sure that God be a gainer. These are the two proffers I have to make to you.
1. Negatively. Let not God be a loser; He never intended to give you gifts to His own wrong. Now that will be--
2. Positively. Let God be a gainer.
A preparative to marriage
Well might Paul say (Hebrews 13:4), “marriage is honourable”; for God hath honoured it Himself. It is honourable for the author, honourable for the time, and honourable for the place. Whereas all other ordinances were appointed of God by the hands of men, or the hands of angels (Acts 12:7; Hebrews 2:2), marriage was ordained by God Himself, which cannot err. No man nor angel brought the wife to the husband, but God Himself (Genesis 2:12); so marriage hath more honour of God in this than all other ordinances of God beside, because He solemnized it Himself. Then it is honourable for the time; for it was the first ordinance that God instituted, even the first thing which He did, after man and woman were created, and that in the state of innocency, before either had sinned: like the finest flower, which will not thrive but in a clean ground. Then it is honourable for the place; for whereas all other ordinances were instituted out of paradise, marriage was instituted in paradise, in the happiest place, to signify haw happy they are that marry in the Lord. As God the Father honoured marriage, so did God the Son, which is called “the Seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15); therefore marriage was so honoured among women because of this seed, that when Elizabeth brought forth a son (Luke 1:25), she said that “God had taken away her rebuke,” counting it the honour of women to bear children, and, by consequence, the honour of women to be married; for the children which are born out of marriage are the dishonour of women, and called by the shameful name of bastards (Deuteronomy 23:2). As Christ honoured marriage with His birth, so He honoured it with His miracles; for the first miracle which Christ did, He wrought at a marriage in Cana, where He turned the water into wine (John 2:8). As He honoured it with miracles, so He honoured it with praises; for He compareth the kingdom of God to a wedding (Matthew 22:2); and He compareth holiness to a wedding garment (Genesis 2:11); and in the 5th of Canticles He is wedded Himself (Song of Solomon 5:9). We read in Scripture of three marriages of Christ. The first was when Christ and our nature met together. The second is, when Christ and our soul join together. The third is, the union of Christ and His Church. These are Christ’s three wives. As Christ honoured marriage, so do Christ’s disciples; for John calleth the conjunction of Christ and the faithful a marriage (Revelation 19:7). And in Revelation 21:9, the Church hath the name of a bride, whereas heresy is called an harlot (Revelation 17:1). Now it must needs be, that marriage, which was ordained of such an excellent Author, and in such a happy place, and of such an ancient time, and after such a notable order, must likewise have special causes for the ordinance of it. Therefore the Holy Ghost doth show us three causes of this union. One is, the propagation of children, signified in that when Moses saith “He created them male and female” (Genesis 2:22), not both male nor both female, but one male and the other female; as if He created them fit to propagate other. And, therefore, when He had created them so, to show that propagation of children is one end of marriage, He said unto them, “Increase and multiply” (Genesis 1:28); that is, bring forth children, as other creatures bring forth their kind. The second cause is to avoid fornication. This Paul signifieth when he saith, “For the avoiding of fornication, let every man have his own wife” (1 Corinthians 7:8). The third cause is to avoid the inconvenience of solitariness, signified in these words, “It is not good for man to be alone”; as though He had said, This life would be miserable and irksome, and unpleasant to man, if the Lord had not given him a wife to company his troubles. If it be not good for man to be alone, then it is good for man to have a fellow; therefore, as God created a pair of all other kinds, so He created a pair of this kind. We say that one is none, because he cannot be fewer than one, he cannot be less than one, he cannot be weaker than one, and therefore the wise man saith, “Woe to him that is alone” (Ecclesiastes 4:10), that is, he which is alone shall have woe. Thoughts and cares and fears will come to him because he hath none to comfort him, as thieves steal in when the house is empty; like a turtle which hath lost his mate; like one leg when the other is cut off; like one wing when the other is clipped; so had the man been, if the woman had not been joined to him; therefore for mutual society God coupled two together, that the infinite troubles which lie upon us in the world might be eased with the comfort and help one of another, and that the poor in the world might have some comfort as well as the rich; for “the poor man,” saith Solomon, “is forsaken of his own brethren” (Proverbs 19:7); yet God hath provided one comfort for him, like Jonathan’s armour bearer, that shall never forsake him (1 Samuel 14:7), that is, another self, which is the only commodity (as I may term it) wherein the poor do match the rich; without which some persons should have no helper, no comfort, no friend at all. In Matthew 22:1-46, Christ showeth that before parties married, they were wont to put on fair and new garments, which were called wedding garments; a warning unto all which put on wedding garments to put on truth and holiness too, which so precisely is resembled by that garment more than other. Yet the chiefest point is behind, that is, our duties. The duties of marriage may be reduced to the duties of man and wife, one toward another, and their duties towards their children, and their duty toward their servants. For themselves, saith one, they must think themselves like to birds: the one is the cock, and the other is the hen; the cock flieth abroad to bring in, and the dam sitteth upon the nest to keep all at home. So God hath made the man to travel abroad, and the woman to keep home; and so their nature, and their wit, and their strength are fitted accordingly; for the man’s pleasure is most abroad, and the woman’s within. In every state there is some one virtue which belongeth to that calling more than other; as justice unto magistrates, and knowledge unto preachers, and fortitude unto soldiers; so love is the marriage virtue which sings music to their whole life. Wedlock is made of two loves, which I may call the first love and the after love. As every man is taught to love God before he be bid to love his neighbour, so they must love God before they can love one another. To show the love which should be between man and wife, marriage is called conjugium, which signifieth a knitting or joining together; showing, that unless there be a joining of hearts, and a knitting of affections together, it is not marriage in deed, but in show and name, and they shall dwell in a house like two poisons in a stomach, and one shall ever be sick of another. Therefore, first, that they may love, and keep love one with another, it is necessary that they both love God, and as their love increaseth toward Him, so it shall increase each to other. To begin this concord well, it is necessary to learn one another’s natures, and one another’s affections, and one another’s infirmities, because ye must be helpers, and ye cannot help unless you know the disease. Thus much of their duties in general; now to their several offices. The man may spell his duty out of his name, for he is called “the head” (Ephesians 5:23), to show that as the eye, the tongue, and the ear are in the head to direct the whole body, so the man should be stored with wisdom, and understanding, and knowledge, and discretion, to direct his whole family; for it is not right that the worse should rule the better, but the better should rule the worse, as the best rules all. The husband saith that his wife must obey him, because he is her better; therefore if he let her be better than himself, he seems to free her from her obedience, and binds himself to obey her. His first duty is called hearting, that is, hearty affection. As they are hand-fasted, so they must be heart-fasted; for the eye, and the tongue, and the hand will be her enemies if the heart be not her friend. As Christ draweth all the commandments to love, so may I draw all their duties to love,, which is the heart’s gift to the bride at her marriage. First, he must choose his love, and then he must love his choice. This is the oil which maketh all things easy. His next duty to love, is a fruit of his love; that is, to let all things be common between them which were private before. The man and wife are partners, like two oars in a boat; therefore he must divide offices, and affairs, and goods with her, causing her to be feared, and reverenced, and obeyed of her children and servants, like himself, for she is an under officer in his commonweal, and therefore she must be assisted and borne out like his deputy; as the prince standeth with his magistrates for his own quiet, because they are the legs which bear him up. Lastly, he must tender her as much as all her friends, because he hath taken her from her friends, and covenanted to tender her for them all. To show how he should tender her, Peter saith, “Honour the woman as the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). As we do not handle glasses like pots, because they are weaker vessels, but touch them nicely and softly for fear of cracks, so a man must entreat his wife with gentleness and softness, not expecting that wisdom, nor that faith, nor that patience, nor that strength in the weaker vessel, which should be in the stronger; but think when he takes a wife he takes a vineyard, not grapes, but a vineyard to bear him grapes; therefore he must sow it, and dress it, and water it, and fence it, and think it a good vineyard, if at last it brings forth grapes. So he must not look to find a wife without a fault, but think that she is committed to him to reclaim her from her faults; for all are defective. And if he find the proverb true, that in space cometh grace, he must rejoice as much at his wife when she amendeth, as the husbandman rejoiceth when his vineyard beginneth to fructify. So much for husbands. Likewise the woman may learn her duty of her names. They are called goodwives, as goodwife A and goodwife B. Every wife is called a good wife; therefore if they be not good wives, their names do belie them, and they are not worth their titles, but answer to a wrong name, as players do upon a stage. This name pleaseth them well. But besides this, a wife is called a yoke fellow (Philippians 4:3), to show that she should help her husband to bear his yoke, that is, his grief must be her grief; and whether it be the yoke of poverty, or the yoke of envy, or the yoke of sickness, or the yoke of imprisonment, she must submit her neck to bear it patiently with him, or else she is not his yoke fellow, but his yoke; as though she were inflicted upon him for a penalty, like to Job’s wife, whom the devil left to torment him when he took away all he had beside (Job 2:9). Beside a yoke fellow, she is called a helper (Genesis 2:18), to help him in his business, to help him in his labours, to help him in his troubles, to help him in his sickness, like a woman physician, sometime with her strength, and sometime with her counsel; for sometime as God confoundeth the wise by the foolish, and the strong by the weak (1 Corinthians 1:27), so He teacheth the wise by the foolish, and helpeth the strong by the weak. Beside a helper, she is called a comforter too; and therefore the man is bid rejoice in his wife (Proverbs 5:18); which is as much to say, that wives must be the rejoicing of their husbands, even like David’s harp to comfort 1 Samuel 16:23). Lastly, we call the wife huswife, that is, housewife; not a street wife, like Tamar (Genesis 38:14); nor a field wife, like Dinah (Genesis 34:2); but a housewife, to show that a good wife keeps her house; and therefore Paul biddeth Titus to exhort women that they be “chaste, and keeping at home” (Titus 2:5). Presently after “chaste” he saith “keeping at home,” as though home were chastity’s keeper. As it becometh her to keep home, so it becometh her to keep silence, and always speak the best of her head. Others seek their honour in triumph, but she must seek her honour in reverence; for it becometh not any woman to set light by her husband, nor to publish his infirmities. For they say, That is an evil bird that defileth her own nest; and if a wife use her husband so, how may a husband use his wife? Because this is the quality of that sex, to overthwart, and upbraid, and sue the preeminence of their husbands, therefore the philosophers could not tell how to define a wife, but call her the contrary to a husband, as though nothing were so cross and contrary to a man as a wife. This is not Scripture, but no slander to many. As David exalted the love of women above all other loves (2 Samuel 1:26), so Solomon mounteth the envy of women above all other envies (Proverbs 21:19). Stubborn, sullen, taunting, gainsaying, out-facing, with such a bitter humour, that one would think they were molten out of the salt pillar into which Lot’s wife was transformed (Genesis 19:28). We say not all are alike, but this sect hath many disciples, Doth the rib that is in man’s side fret or gall him? No more then should she which is made of the rib (Genesis 2:20). Though a woman be wise, and painful, and have many good parts, yet if she be a shrew, her troublesome jarring in the end will make her honest behaviour unpleasant, as her overpinching at last causeth her good housewifery to be evil spoken of. Therefore, although she be a wife, yet sometimes she must observe the servant’s lesson: “Not answering again” (Titus 2:9), and hold her peace to keep the peace. Therefore they which keep silence are well said to hold their peace, because silence oftentimes doth keep the peace when words would break it. To her silence and patience she must add the acceptable obedience which makes a woman rule while she is ruled. This is the wife’s tribute to her husband; for she is not called his head, but he is called her head. Thus we have shadowed the man’s duty to his wife, and the woman’s to her husband. After their duties one to another, they must learn their duties to their family. One compareth the master of the house to the seraphim, which came and kindled the prophet’s zeal; so he should go from wife to servants, and from servants to children, and kindle in them the zeal of God, longing to teach his knowledge, as a nurse to empty her breasts. Another saith that a master in his family hath all the offices of Christ, for he must rule, and teach, and pray; rule like a king, and teach like a prophet, and pray like a priest (Revelation 5:10). To show how a godly man should behave himself in his household, when the Holy Ghost speaketh of the conversation of any housekeeper, lightly he saith, that “the man believed with all his household” (Acts 16:34; Acts 18:8). As Peter being converted, must convert his brethren; so the master being converted, must convert his servants. Lastly, we put the duty towards children, because they come last to their hands. In Latin children are called pignora, that is, pledges; as if I should say, a pledge of the husband’s love to the wife, and a pledge of the wife’s love toward the husband; for there is nothing which doth so knit love between the man and the wife as the fruit of the womb. The first duty is the mother’s, that is, to nurse her child at her own breasts, as Sarah did Genesis 21:7); and therefore Isaiah joined the nurse’s name and the mother’s name both in one, and called them “nursing mothers”; showing that mothers should be the nurses. The next duty is, “Catechize a child in his youth, and he will remember it when he is old” (Proverbs 22:6). This is the right blessing which fathers and mothers give to their children, when they cause God to bless them too. If these duties be performed in marriage then I need not speak of divorcement, which is the rod of marriage, and divideth them which were one flesh, as if the body and soul were parted asunder. But because all perform not their wedlock vows, therefore He which appointed marriage hath appointed divorcement, as it were taking our privilege from us when we abuse it. As God hath ordained remedies for every disease, so He hath ordained a remedy for the disease of marriage. The disease of marriage is adultery, and the medicine hereof is divorcement. Moses licensed them to depart for hardness of heart Matthew 19:8); but Christ licenseth them to depart for no cause but adultery. If they might be separated for discord, some would make a commodity of strife; but now they are not best to be contentious, for this law will hold their noses together, till weariness make them leave struggling; like two spaniels which are coupled in a chain, at last they learn to go together, because they may not go asunder. As nothing might part friends, but “if thine eye offend thee, pull it out” (Matthew 5:32); that is, thy friend be a tempter; so nothing may dissolve marriage but fornication (Matthew 19:9), which is the breach of marriage, for marriage is ordained to avoid fornication (1 Corinthians 7:9), and therefore if the condition be broken, the obligation is void. (H. Smith.)
Why the creation of woman was deferred to this precise juncture in human history
First, man’s original unity is the counterpart of the unity of God. He was to be made in the image of God, and after His likeness. If the male and the female had been created at once, an essential feature of the Divine likeness would have been wanting. But, as in the Absolute One there is no duality, whether in sex or in any other respect, so is there none in the original form and constitution of man. Hence we learn the absurdity of those who import into their notions of the deity the distinction of sex, and all the alliances which are involved in a race of gods. Secondly, the natural unity of the first pair, and of the race descended from them, is established by the primary creation of an individual, from whom is derived, by a second creative process, the first woman. The race of man is thus a perfect unity, flowing from a single centre of human life. Thirdly, two remarkable events occur in the experience of man before the formation of the woman; his instalment in the garden as its owner, keeper, and dresser; and his review of the animals as their rational superior, to whom they yield an instinctive homage. By the former he is prepared to provide for the sustenance and comfort of his wife. By the latter, he becomes aware of his power to protect her. Still farther, by the interview with his Maker in the garden he came to understand language; and by the inspection of the animals to employ it himself. Speech implies the exercise of the susceptive and conceptive powers of the understanding. Thus Adam was qualified to hold intelligent converse with a being like himself. He was competent to be the instructor of his wife in words and things. Again, he had met with his superior in his Creator, his inferiors in the animals; and he was now to meet his equal in the woman. And lastly, by the Divine command his moral sense had been brought into play, the theory of moral obligation had been revealed to his mind, and he was therefore prepared to deal with a moral being like himself, to understand and respect the rights of another, to do unto another as he would have another do to him. It was especially necessary that the sense of right should grow up in his breast, to keep in due check that might in which he excelled, before the weaker and gentler sex was called into being, and entrusted to his charge. (Prof. J. G. Murphy.)
Washington Irving likens such a woman to the vine. As the vine, which has long twined its graceful foliage about the oak, and been lifted by it in sunshine, will, when the hardy plant is rifted by the thunderbolt, cling round it with its caressing tendrils, and bind up its shattered boughs; so it is beautifully ordered by Providence that woman should be man’s stay and solace when smitten with sudden calamity--binding up the broken heart.
“‘Tis woman’s to bind up the broken heart,
And soften the bending spirit’s smart;
And to light in this world of sin and pain,
The lamp of love, and of joy again.”
Guelph, the Duke of Bavaria, was besieged in his castle, and compelled to capitulate to the Emperor Conrad. His lady demanded for herself and the other ladies safe conduct to a place of safety, with whatever they could carry. This was granted; and to the astonishment of all, the ladies appeared, carrying their husbands on their backs. Thus wives aided their husbands: and never in the gayest moods in tournament or court did those fair dames look more lovely.
Hargrave says that women are the poetry of the world in the same sense as the stars are the poetry of heaven. Clear, light-giving harmonies, women are the terrestrial planets that rule the destinies of mankind.
The word “woman”
In English, the qualification “wo,” placed before “man,” indicates merely a difference of sex. In Latin, she is called the muller, a word derived from mollior--softer, more tender. In Hebrew ish signifies “man,” and the addition of a terminal vowel makes it isha--a woman. In all three of these languages, the words used are also applied to a “wife.” In Turkish, however, the name karu--woman--is never applied to a wife; she is called ev, which signifies “house”; while the Armenians call her undanik, or the keeper at home, a word which includes the children; they also call the wife gin, i.e., a woman. (Things not Generally Known)
Cleave unto his wife
THE NATURE AND END OF MARRIAGE. It is a vow of perpetual and indissoluble friendship.
1. It has long been observed that friendship is to be confined to one: or that, to use the words of the axiom, “He that hath friends, has no friend.” That ardour of kindness, that unbounded confidence, that unsuspecting security which friendship requires, cannot be extended beyond a single object.
2. It is remarked, that friendship amongst equals is the most lasting, and perhaps there are few causes to which more unhappy marriages are to be ascribed than a disproportion between the original condition of the two persons.
3. Strict friendship is to have the same desires and the same aversions. Whoever is to choose a friend is to consider first the resemblance or the dissimilitude of tempers. How necessary this caution is to be urged as preparatory to marriage, the misery of those who neglect it sufficiently evinces.
4. Friends, says the proverbial observation, “have everything in common.” This is likewise implied in the marriage covenant. Matrimony admits of no separate possessions, no incommunicable interests.
5. There is yet another precept equally relating to friendship and to marriage, a precept which, in either case, can never be too strongly inculcated, or too scrupulously observed; “Contract friendship only with the good.” Virtue is the first quality to be considered in the choice of a friend, and yet more in a fixed and irrevocable choice.
II. BY WHAT MEANS THE END OF MARRIAGE IS TO BE ATTAINED. The duties, by the practice of which a married life is to be made happy, are the same with those of friendship, but exalted to higher perfection. Love must be more ardent, and confidence without limits. It is therefore necessary on each part to deserve that confidence by the most unshaken fidelity, and to preserve their love unextinguished by continual acts of tenderness: not only to detest all real, but seeming offences: and to avoid suspicion and guilt, with almost equal solicitude. (John Taylor, LL. D.)
I. MARRIAGE OF MAN AND WOMAN IS AN ORDINANCE OF GOD HIMSELF. And is therefore called the covenant of God (Proverbs 2:17). By which He is said to join the married persons together (Matthew 19:6). Of which conjunction especially the apostle speaks, when he warns every man to walk as God hath called him (1 Corinthians 7:17). Neither in reason can it be otherwise; seeing--
1. We are God’s and not our own; and therefore none of us having power over his own person, can be disposed of otherwise than He directs (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
2. We bring forth children unto God (Malachi 2:15). Which He therefore calls His own (Ezekiel 16:21), as born unto Him.
II. MARRIED PERSONS MUST BE WHOLLY AND ENTIRELY ONE TO ANOTHER. According to the form of that stipulation mentioned (Hosea 3:3), which extends unto all conjugal duties only. One may love other friends, but only his wife with a conjugal love and affection, rejoicing in her alone Proverbs 5:18-19); dwelling with her as an inseparable companion; advising and jointly labouring with her for upholding and governing of the family (1 Corinthians 7:3) and the like--in those the married persons must be wholly one to another. But so that they also, as well as others, must still hold themselves obliged to those general duties of love, due reverence, and service, unto all other persons, according to their several relations.
III. MARRIED PERSONS ARE NOT ONLY TO REFRAIN THEMSELVES FROM ALL OTHERS, BUT RESIDES TO ADHERE AND CLEAVE FIRMLY ONE TO ANOTHER. (J. White, M. A.)
The unity of husband and wife
Husband and wife should be like two candles burning together, which make the house more lightsome; or like two fragrant flowers bound up in one nosegay, that augment its sweetness; or like two well-tuned instruments, which, sounding together, make the more melodious music. Husband and wife--what are they but as two springs meeting, and so joining their streams that they make but one current? (W. Secker.)
Two hallowed institutions
Two hallowed institutions have descended to us from the days of primeval innocence, the wedding and the Sabbath. The former indicates communion of the purest and most perfect kind between equals of the same class. The latter implies communion of the highest and holiest kind between the Creator and the intelligent creature. The two combined, import communion with each other in communion with God. Wedded union is the sum and type of every social tie. It gives rise and scope to all the nameless joys of home. It is the native field for the cultivation of all the social virtues. It provides for the due framing and checking of the overgrowth of interest in self, and for the gentle training and fostering of a growing interest in others. It unfolds the graces and charms of mutual love, and imparts to the susceptible heart all the peace and joy, all the light and fire, all the frankness and life of conscious and constant purity and goodwill. Friendship, brotherly kindness and love, are still hopeful and sacred names among mankind. Sabbath keeping lifts the wedded pair, the brethren, the friends, the one-minded, up to communion with God. The joy of achievement is a feeling common to God and man. The commemoration of the auspicious beginning of a holy and happy existence will live in man while memory lasts. The anticipation also of joyful repose after the end of a work well done will gild the future while hope survives. Thus the idea of the Sabbath spans the whole of man’s existence. History and prophecy commingle in its peaceful meditations, and both are linked with God. God is; He is the author of all being and the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. This is the noble lesson of the Sabbath. Each seventh day is well spent in attending to the realization of these great thoughts. (Prof. J. G. Murphy.)
Nakedness without shame
There they stood, just as they came from the hands of God.
They did not need to blush; they felt no shame. It is sin that has connected nakedness and shame together. No sin, no shame. There is no blush upon an angel’s brow. Unfallen man had the unashamed nakedness of innocence; but with the Fall this has passed away, not to be returned to, even under redemption, but to be replaced by something higher, the glorious raiment of a righteousness that is unfading and divine. Unfallen man needed no covering, and asked for none; but fallen man, under the bitter consciousness of the unworthy and unseemly condition to which sin has reduced him, as unfit for God, or angels, or man to look upon, cries out for covering--covering such as will hide his shame even from the eye of God. Hence He who undertook to provide this covering, must bear the shame. And He has borne it--all the shame of hanging naked on the cross; the shame of a sinner; the shame of being made the song of the drunkard; the shame of being despised and rejected of men; the shame of being treated as an outcast, one unfit for either God or man to look upon--unfit not only to live, but even to die within the gates of the holy city (Hebrews 13:11-12). All that shame has He borne for us, that we might inherit His glory. He stooped to the place of shame below, that we might obtain the place of honour in the better paradise above. Thus walked our first parents amid the groves of a paradise that had not then been lost. Thus dwelt they in its bowers as a home, and worshipped in it as a sanctuary. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
What was man’s glory is now his shame
That very state of body which was, in Adam and Eve, their highest glory, would be, in us, should we be seen in that state, our deepest shame. It was the very glory of man, and would have continued to be so, had he remained in his original innocency, that while all the other animals had need of hairs, feathers, and scales, etc., to cover their unsightliness, man alone was created with that dignity and beauty of body, that he could appear, uncovered, in the glory of his created nakedness. But all this glory is lost. We are now compelled, not only for necessary protection, but for the sake of avoiding the deepest turpitude, to cover our bodies with more study and care than any other animals of God’s creation. For they all come into the world covered by nature. (M. Lather.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Genesis 2". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week after Epiphany