Santa Clara, CA
| Orgin ~ Pink|
Hope this doesn't need the disclaimer of intention, have sat on it for awhile - Could plead only for a hearing and a consideration - Not a debate or an argument for construct and contrast ...
[i]Most certainly we cannot attribute mans natural inordinance and defectiveness to his Creator. To do so would be the rankest blasphemy, as well as giving the lie to His Word, which declares, "God hath made man upright" (Eccles. 7:29). Even on a much lower ground, such a conclusion is self-evidently false. It is impossible that darkness should issue from the Father of light, or that sin should come from the ineffably holy One. It is infinitely better to confess our ignorance than to be guilty of grossest impietyto say nothing of manifest absurdityby placing the onus on God. But there is no excuse for anyone to be ignorant on the matter. The Holy Scriptures supply a definite solution to this mystery, and show that the entire blame for his present wretchedness lies at mans own door. And therefore to say that man is a sinful creature, or even to allow that he is totally depraved, is to acknowledge only half of the truth, and the least humbling half at that.[/i]
The Total Depravity of Man
That something is radically wrong with the world of mankind requires no labored argument to demonstrate. That such has been the case in all generations is plain from the annals of history. This is only another way of saying that something is radically wrong with man himself, for the world is but the aggregate of all the individual members of our race. Since the whole of anything cannot be superior to the parts comprising it, it necessarily follows that the course of the world will be determined by the characters of those who comprise it. But when we come to inquire exactly what is wrong with man, and how he came to be in such a condition, unless we turn to Gods inspired Word no convincing answers are forthcoming. Apart from that divine revelation no sure and satisfactory reply can be made to such questions as these: What is the source of the unmistakable imperfections of human nature? What will furnish an adequate explanation of all the evils which infest mans present state? Why is it that none is able to keep Gods law perfectly or do anything which is acceptable to Him while in a state of nature?
To ascertain how sin, which involves all men, came into the world is a matter of no little importance. To discover why it is that all men universally and continually are unrighteous and ailing creatures supplies the key to many a problem. Look at human nature as it now is: depraved, wretched, subject to death. Ask philosophy to account for this, and it cannot do so. None can deny the fact that men are what they ought not to be, but how they became so human wisdom is unable to tell us. To attribute our troubles to heredity and environment is an evasion, for it leaves unanswered the question How did it come about that our original ancestors and environment were such as to produce what now exists? Look not only at our prisons, hospitals and cemeteries, but also at the antipathy between the righteous and the wicked, between those who fear God and those who do not fear Him. The antagonism between Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, is repeatedly duplicated in every age and area; but the Bible alone traces that antagonism to its fountainhead.
Judicious ancients recognized and bemoaned the universal tendency of men to be lawbreakers, but were entirely unaware of its real source. They were agreed that the practice of virtue was the chief thing necessary for the promotion of mans good, but they had to lament an irregular bent in the wills and a corruption in the affections of their disciples, which rendered their precepts of little use, and they were completely at a loss to assign any reason why men, who have the noblest faculties of any beings on earth, should yet generally pursue their destruction with as much eagerness as the beasts avoid it. Plato, in the second book of his Republic, complained that men by their natures are evil and cannot be brought to good. Tully acknowledged that "man is brought forth into the world, in body and soul, exposed to all miseries and prone to evil, in whom that Divine spark of goodness, and wisdom, and morality, is opposed and extinguished." They realized that all men were poisoned, but how the poison came to be in the human constitution they did not know. Some ascribed it to fate; others to the hostile influences of the planets; still others to an evil angel which attends each man.
Most certainly we cannot attribute mans natural inordinance and defectiveness to his Creator. To do so would be the rankest blasphemy, as well as giving the lie to His Word, which declares, "God hath made man upright" (Eccles. 7:29). Even on a much lower ground, such a conclusion is self-evidently false. It is impossible that darkness should issue from the Father of light, or that sin should come from the ineffably holy One. It is infinitely better to confess our ignorance than to be guilty of grossest impietyto say nothing of manifest absurdityby placing the onus on God. But there is no excuse for anyone to be ignorant on the matter. The Holy Scriptures supply a definite solution to this mystery, and show that the entire blame for his present wretchedness lies at mans own door. And therefore to say that man is a sinful creature, or even to allow that he is totally depraved, is to acknowledge only half of the truth, and the least humbling half at that. Man is a fallen creature. He has departed from his original state and primitive purity. Man, far from having ascended from something inferior to an ape, has descended from the elevated and honorable position in which God first placed him; and it is all-important to contend for this, since it alone satisfactorily explains why man is now depraved.
Man is not now as God made him. He has lost the crown and glory of his creation, and has plunged himself into an awful gulf of sin and misery. By his own perversity he has wrecked himself and placed a consequence of woe on his posterity. He is a ruined creature as the result of his apostasy from God. This requires that we consider, first, man in his original state, that we may perceive his folly in so lightly valuing it and that we may form a better conception of the vastness and vileness of his downward plunge, for that can only be gauged as we learn what he fell from as well as into. By his wicked defection man brought himself into a state as black and doleful as his original one was glorious and blessed. Second, we need to consider most attentively what it has pleased the Holy Spirit to record about the fall itself, pondering each detail described in Genesis 3, and the amplifications of them supplied by the later scriptures, looking to God to grant us graciously an understanding of the same. Third, we shall be in a better position to view the fearful consequences of the fall and perceive how the punishment was made to fit the crime.
[b]Original Man, Gods Masterpiece[/b]
Instead of surveying the varied opinions and conflicting conjectures of our fallible and fallen fellow creatures concerning the original condition and estate of our first parents, we shall confine ourselves entirely to the divinely inspired Scriptures, which are the only unerring rule of faith. From them, and them alone, can we ascertain what man was when he first came from the hands of his Creator. First, Gods Word makes known His intention to bring man into existence: "And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Gen. 1:26). There are two things exceedingly noteworthy in that brief statement, namely, the repeated use of the pronoun in the plural number, and the fact that its language suggests the idea of a conference between the divine Persons at this point of the "six days" work. We say "at this point," for there is nothing resembling it in the record of what occurred during the previous days. Thus, the divine conference here conveys the impression that the most important stage of creation had now been reached, that man was to be the masterpiece of the divine workmanship, the crowning glory of the mundane spherewhich is clearly borne out in his being made in the divine image.
It is the usage of the plural number in Genesis 1:26 which in our judgment intimates the first signification of the term "image." God is a trinity in unity, and so also is the man He made, consisting, in his entirety, of "spirit and soul and body" (I Thess. 5:23). While in some passages "spirit" and "soul" are used as synonyms, in Hebrews 4:12 they are distinguished. The fact that the plural pronoun occurs three times in the brief declaration of the Deity in Genesis 1:26 supplies confirmation that the one made in Their likeness was also a threefold entity. Some scholars consider that there is an allusion to this feature of mans constitution in the apostles averment "In him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28), pointing out that each of those three verbs has a philological significance: the first to our animal life; the second (from which is derived the Greek word used by ethical writers for the passions such as fear, love, hatred, and the like) not, as our English verb suggests, to mans bodily motions in space, but to his emotional nature the soul; the third to that which constitutes our essential being (the "spirit")the intelligence and will of man
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Gen. 1:27). This announces the actual accomplishment of the divine purpose and counsel referred to in the preceding verse. The repetition of the statement with the change of the pronoun from plural to singular number, implies a second meaning for the term "image." Viewing it more generally, it tells of the excellence of mans original nature, though it must be explained consistently with the infinite distance that exists between God and the highest creature. Whatever this glory was which God placed on Adam, it does not infer that he shared the divine perfections. Nor is the nothingness of the best of finite beings any disparagement when compared with God; for whatever likeness there is to Him, either as created, regenerated or glorified, there is at the same time an infinite disproportion. Further, this excellence of mans original nature must be distinguished from that glory which is peculiar to Christ who, far from being said to be "made in the image of God," "is the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1: 15), "the express image of his person" (Heb. 1:8). The oneness and equality between the Father and the Son in no way pertain to any likeness between God and the creature.
Examining the term more closely, "the image of God" in which man was made refers to his moral nature, Calvin defined it as being "spiritual," and stated that it "includes all the excellence in which the nature of man surpasses all the other species of animals" and "denotes the integrity Adam possessed." He stated further that it may be more clearly specified "in the restoration which we obtain through Christ." Without an exception, all the Puritans we have consulted say substantially the same thing, regarding this "image of God" as moral rectitude, a nature in perfect accord with the divine law. It could not be otherwise; for the holy One to make a creature after His likeness would be to endow him with holiness. The statement that the regenerate has been "renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Col. 3:10) clearly implies the same image in which man was originally made, and which sin has defaced. Not only did that image consist of knowledge (i.e., of God) but, as Ephesians 4:24 informs us, of "righteousness and true holiness" also. Thus mans original state was far more than one of innocence (sinlessness, harmlessness), which is mainly a negative thing.
That man was created in positive holiness is also taught in Ecclesiastes 7:29. "God hath made [not is now making] man upright," not only without any improper bias but according to rulestraight with the law of God, conformed to His will. As Thomas Boston expressed it, "Original righteousness was con-created with him." The same Hebrew word occurs in "good and upright is the LORD" (Ps. 25:8). We have dwelt long on this point because not only do Romanists and Socinians deny that man was created a spiritual (not merely natural) and holy (not simply innocent) being, but some hyper-Calvinistswho prefer their own principles to the Word of Goddo so too. One error inevitably leads to another. To insist that the unregenerate are under no obligation to perform spiritual acts obliges them to infer the same thing of Adam. To conclude that if Adam fell from a holy and spiritual condition, then we must abandon the doctrine of final perseverance is to leave out Christ and lose sight of the superiority of the covenant of grace over the original one of works.
"And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Gen. 2:7). This supplies us with additional information on the making of Adam. First, the matter from which his body was formed, to demonstrate the wisdom and power of God in making out of such material so wonderful a thing as the human body, and to teach man his humble origin and dependence upon (4. Second, the quickening principle bestowed on Adam, which was immediately from God, namely, an intelligent spirit, of which the fall did not deprive him (Eccles. 12:7). That "the breath of life" included reason, or the faculty of understanding, is clear from "the life was the light of men" (John 1:4). Third, the effect on Adam. His body was now animated and made capable of vital acts. Mans body out of the dust was the workmanship of God, but his soul was an immediate communication from "the Father of spirits" (Heb. 12:9), and thereby earth and heaven were united in him.
And the LORD God said, It not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him
. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept : and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man (Gen. 2:18-22). It seems that God chose this mode of making the woman, instead of forming her also out of the dust, to express the intimate union which was to take place between the sexes, to denote their mutual relation and dependence, and to show the superiority of man. Those two were so made that the whole human race, physically considered, were contained in them and to be produced from them, making them all literally "of one blood" (Acts 17:26).
"And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" (Gen. 1:28). Those words intimate that there was yet another meaning to "the image of God," for the position of headship and authority which He conferred upon Adam showed the divine sovereignty. Psalm 8:5-6 tells us, "Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet." Adam was constituted Gods viceroy on earth, the government of all inferior creatures being conferred upon him. That was further demonstrated when the Lord brought all before Adam for him to give names to them (Gen. 2:19-20), which not only evinced that he was a rational creature, endowed with the power of choice, but manifested his superiority over all mundane creatures, his proprietorship in them, and his liberty to use them for Gods glory and his own good.
But more. God not only endowed Adam with righteousness and holiness, thereby fitting him to fulfill the end of his creation by glorifying the Author of his being. He also bestowed on him the gift of reason, which distinguished him from and elevated him above all the other inhabitants of the earth, conferring on him the charter of dominion over them. Further, He brought him into a pure and beautiful environment. "And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.... And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden [which the Septuagint renders the paradise of joy] to dress it and to keep it" (Gen. 2:8-15). Genesis 3:24 confirms the fact that the garden of Eden was distinct from the earth. The whole world was given Adam for a possession, but Eden was the special seat of his residence, a place of preeminent delight. It presented to his view the whole earth in miniature, so that without traveling long distances he might behold the lovely landscape which it afforded. It epitomized all the beauties of nature, and was as it were a conservatory of its fairest vegetation and a storehouse of its choicest fruits.
That the garden of Eden was a place of surpassing beauty, excelling all other parts of the earth for fertility, is evident from other scriptures. Ezekiel, when prophesying in a day of wretchedness and barrenness the bountiful spiritual blessings which would attend the gospel era, used this figurative but graphic language: "This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden" (36:35). Still plainer was the promise of Isaiah 51:3: "For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody." It is clear that nothing was wanting in Eden, in its pristine glory, to give the completest happiness to man. That it was a place of perfect bliss is further evident from the fact that heaven itself, the habitation of the blessed, is called "paradise" in Luke 23:43; II Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7. Some see in that threefold allusion (there are no others) a pledge for the complete satisfaction of the glorified mans spirit, soul and body.
Several things are imported and implied in the statement that the Lord God put the man into the garden of Eden "to dress it and to keep it." First, and most obvious, God takes no pleasure in idleness, but in active industry. That such an appointment was for Adams good cannot be doubted. Regular employment preserves us from those temptations which so often attend indolence. Second, secular employment is by no means inconsistent with perfect holiness, or with a persons enjoying intimate communion with God and the blessings resulting from it. Of course Adams work would be performed without any of the fatigue and disappointment which accompany ours today. The holy angels are not inert, but "ministering spirits" (Heb. 1:14). Of the divine Persons Themselves our Lord declared, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17). Thus this employment assigned Adam was also a part of his conformity to God. Third it implied the duty of keeping his own heart-the garden of his soul-with all diligence (Prov. 4:23), tending its faculties and graces so that he might always be in a condition to pray, "Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits" (Song of Sol. 4:16).
Further, in the words "dress it" (Hebrew "serve," "till it") we are taught that Gods gracious gifts are to be highly treasured and carefully cultivated by us. "Neglect not the gift that is in thee" (I Tim. 4:14). "Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee" (II Tim. 1:6). In the Genesis phrase "and to keep it" we believe there was a tacit warning given by God to Adam. Not only does the English term convey that thought, but the Hebrew word (shamar) here used requires it. Nineteen times it is rendered "preserve," twelve times "take heed," four times "watch," and once it is actually translated "beware." Thus the phrase signified a caution against danger, putting Adam on his guard, warning him to be on the lookout against the encroaching enemy. The Dutch Puritan, Herman Witsius, pointed out that the "keeping of paradise virtually engaged him of all things to be anxiously concerned not to do anything against God, lest as a bad gardener he should be thrust out of the garden, and in that discover a melancholy symbol of his own exclusion from heaven." Finally, since paradise is one of the names of heaven, we may conclude that the earthly one in which Adam was placed was a pledge of celestial blessedness. Had he survived his probation and preserved his integrity, he would have enjoyed "heaven" on earth.
In addition to the institution of marriage (Gen. 2:23-25; 1:28), God appointed the weekly Sabbath. "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. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it : because that in it he had rested from all His work which God created and made" (2:2-3). Should any raise the objection that the term "Sabbath" is not found in those verses, we would remind them that in Exodus 20:11 Jehovah Himself expressly terms that first "seventh day" of rest "the sabbath day." The word "blessed" signifies to declare blessedness; thus on the frontispiece of His Word, God would have every reader know that special divine blessing attends the observance of the Sabbath. The word "sanctified" means that it was a day set apart for sacred use. For Adam it would be a means for his more intimate communion with God, in which he would enjoy a recess from his secular employment and have opportunity of expressing his gratitude for all those blessings of which he was the partaker.
| 2008/12/7 23:06||Profile|
Santa Clara, CA
| Re: Orgin ~ Pink|
[b]Fall of Man[/b]
Though Adam had been made in the image of God, taken into communion with Him, fitted to rejoice in all the manifestations of His wisdom and goodness which surrounded him in Eden, nevertheless he was capable of falling. Since it is a point which has sorely puzzled many of the Lords people, we will endeavor to explain how it was possible for a holy person, devoid of any corruption, to sin First, Adams liability to falling lay in the fact that he was just a creature. As such he was entirely dependent on Him "which holdeth our soul in life" (Ps. 66:9). As our natural life continues only so long as God sustains it, so it was with Adams spiritual life: he stood only so long as he was divinely upheld. Moreover, as a creature he was finite and therefore possessed no invincible power with which to repel opposition. Nor was he endowed with omniscience, which would have made him incapable of being deceived or mistaking an evil for an apparent good. Thus, though mans original condition was one of high moral excellence. with no evil tendency in any part of his nature. with nothing in him which in the least deviated from the moral law, yet, being only a creature. he was capable of falling.
Second, Adams susceptibility to falling lay in his mutability. Changeableness is the very law or radical characteristic of the creature, to distinguish it from the Creator. God alone is without variableness or shadow of turning (James 1:17). Therefore He "cannot be tempted with evil" (James 1:13),that is, induced to sin. This statement clearly implies that the creature as such has a capacity to be so temptednot only a depraved creature, but even an unfallen one. Immutability and impeccability (non-liability to sin) are qualities which essentially distinguish the Creator from the creature. The angels possess neither. Further, God alone acts from His own power, whereas the creature acts by a power given to him which is distinct from himself. Goodwin, pointed this out: "Gods own goodness and happiness is His ultimate end, therefore He can never act but holily, for He acts by Himself and for Himself, and so cannot fail in acting, but is holy in all His ways and works, and cannot be otherwise." But man neither acts immediately by his own power nor is himself the legitimate end of his acting, but rather God. Thus, with all faculties, man may falter when using them.
Third, Adams liability to falling lay in the freedom of his will. He was not only a rational creature, but also a moral one. Freedom of will is a property which belongs to man as a rational and responsible being. As we cannot separate understanding from the mind, neither can we part liberty from the will, especially in connection with things within its own sphere, especially when considering that all the faculties of mans soul were in a state of perfection before the fall. With Adam and Eve the freedom of their will consisted in a power of choosing or embracing what appeared agreeable and good to the dictates of their understandings, or in refusing and avoiding what was evil. There was no constraint or force laid upon them to act contrary to the dictates of their own wills. Such freedom also infers a power to act pursuant to what the will chooses, otherwise it could not obtain the good desired or avoid the evil detested: and in such a case its liberty would be little more than a name. Freedom of action is opposed to that which is involuntary or compelled, and the will is both self-inclining and self-determining in the acting, both internally and externally; for then only can it be said to be free.
Our first parents had that freedom of will, or power to retain their integrity. This is evident from the clearly revealed fact that they were under an indispensable obligation to yield perfect obedience to God, and liable to deserved punishment for the least defection. Therefore they must have been given a power to stand, a liberty of will to choose that which was conducive to their happiness. The same thing is also evident from the difference between mans primitive and present state. As fallen, man is now by a necessity of nature inclined to sin, and accordingly he is denominated "the servant of sin" (John 9 8:34), a slave to it, entirely under its dominion. But it was far otherwise with Adam, whose nature was holy and provided with everything necessary to his yielding that obedience demanded of him. Nevertheless, his will being free, it was capable of complying with an external temptation to evil, though so long as he made a right use of his faculties he would defend himself and reject the temptation with abhorrence. It pleased God to leave our first parents without any immediate help from without, to the freedom and mutability of their own will. But that neither made Him the author of their sin nor brought them under any natural necessity of falling.
Before considering the probation under which Adam was placed, and the test to which his loyalty and subjection to God were submitted, it should be pointed out that Scripture requires us to regard him as far more than private person, the consequences of whose action would be confined to himself.As we purpose showing, that is made very plain from the event itself. Adam was more than the father of the human race. By divine constitution he was made the covenant head of all his natural seed, so that what he did was divinely regarded and reckoned as being done by themjust as Christ came into the world as the covenant Head of all His spiritual seed, acting and transacting in their name and on their behalf. This is considered more fully under the next division of our subject, where we treat of the imputation of his offense to all his posterity. Suffice it to point out that in Romans 5:14 Adam is expressly called "the figure of him that was to come." In what was he a type of the Redeemer? The principal respect in which he was distinguished from all other creatures lay in his being the federal head and legal representative of all his offspring. This is confirmed by I Corinthians 15:45-49 where the first Adam and the last Adam are designated "the first man" and "the second man," for they were the only two who sustained that covenant and federal relation to others before God.
"And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God, to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil" (Gen. 2:8-9). That is the first mention of those two notable trees, and it is to be observed that, like all the others surrounding them, they were both pleasing to the eye and suitable for eating. Thus God provided not only for Adams profit but for his pleasure also, that he might serve Him with delight. "And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (2:16-17) This, as the following verses indicate, took place before Eve was created, and thus the covenant of works was made with Adam alone as the head of our race. Far more was implied in those words than is actually expressed, as we show when considering them more closely under our next division. Meanwhile, a few general remarks may be of interest.
Herman Witsius stated:
[i]The tendency of such a Divine precept is to be considered. Man was thereby taught: (1) That God is Lord of all thingsthat it is unlawful for man even to desire an apple but with His leave. In all things, therefore, from the greatest to the least, the mouth of the Lord is to be consulted as to what He would or would not have done by Us. (2) That mans true happiness is placed in God alone, and nothing to be desired but with submission to God, and in order to employ it for Him. So that it is He only on whose account all other things appear good and desirable to man. (3) Readily to be satisfied without even the most delightful and desirable things, if God so command: and to think that there is much more good in obedience to the Divine precept than in the enjoyment of the most delightful thing in the world. (4) That man was not yet arrived to the utmost pitch of happiness, but to expect a still greater good after his course of obedience was over. This was hinted by the prohibition of the most delightful tree, whose fruit was, of any other; greatly to be desired; and this argued some degree of imperfection in that state in which man was forbidden the enjoyment of some good.[/i]
In forbidding Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil his Maker asserted His dominion and enforced His authority. That it was proper for Him to do so cannot be lawfully questioned, and as the sole Proprietor of the garden it was fitting that He should emphasize His rights by this restriction.Moreover, since man was created a rational creature and endowed with freedom of will, he was a fit subject for command, and accordingly was placed under law. Thereby Adams loyalty and subjection to his Creatorand Lord were put to the test. Trial of his obedience was made to discover whether the will of God was sacred to him. It was both fit and just that man should remain in the state of holiness in which God had made him, if he would continue to enjoy His favor. Thus he was placed on probation, made the subject of divine government. Adam was not an independent creature, for he did not create himself. Being made by God, he owed a debt to Him; he was a moral being, and therefore responsible to serve and please God. The commandment given to him was no arbitrary infliction, but a necessary injunction for evidencing and enforcing mans relationship to God.
The particular stipulation laid upon our first parents (Gen. 2:17) has been a favorite subject of ridicule by the opponents of divine revelation. Those who are wise in their own conceits have considered it unworthy of the Al-mighty to interpose His authority in a matter so trifling, and have insisted it is incredible to believe that He exposed Adam and Eve to the hazard of ruining themselves and all their progeny by eating the food of a particular tree. But a little reflection ought to show us that nothing in that prohibition was unbecoming to Gods wisdom and goodness. Since He had been pleased to give Adam dominion over all creatures here below, it was surely fitting that He should require some peculiar instance of homage and fidelity to Him as a token of Adams dependence and an acknowledgment of his subjection to his Makerto whom he owed absolute submission and obedience. And what mark of subjection could be more proper than being prohibited from eating one of the fruits of paradise? Full liberty was granted him to eat all the rest. That single abstention was well suited to teach our first parents the salutary lesson of self-denial and of implicit resignation to the good pleasure of the Most High.
In addition to what was noted by Witsius, it may be pointed out that the character of this prohibition taught Adam and Eve to keep their sensitive appetites in subjection to their reasoning faculty. It showed them they must subordinate their bodily inclinations to finding their highest delight in God alone. It intimated that their desire after knowledge must be kept within just bounds, that they must be content with what God knew to be really proper and useful for them, and not presume to pry with unwarrantable curiosity into things which did not belong to them, and which God had not thought well to reveal to them. It was not sinful per se for Adam and Eve to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but only because the Lord God had expressly forbidden them to do So. Accordingly, solemn warning of the dire consequences that would certainly follow their disobedience was given, for even in Eden man was placed under the holy awe of divine threatening, which was a hedge placed around him for his protection. Mans supreme happiness lies in God Himself and the enjoyment of His favor, and in Eden he was forbidden to seek satisfaction in any other degree. His integrity was put to the test in that single restriction of his liberty.
Far from that arrangement being unworthy of the divine majesty, such an enforcing of His will and authority on the creature of His hand was most becoming. The arrangement was necessary in the nature of the case if the responsibility of a free agent was to be enforced, and his subjection to the divine government insisted on. Also the very triviality of the object withheld from our first parents only served to give greater reality to the trial to which they were subjected. As Professor Dick pointed out,
It is manifest that the prohibition did not proceed from malevolence or an intention to impair the happiness of man: because, with this single reservation, he was at liberty to appropriate the rich variety of fruits with which Paradise was stored. It is certain that, situated as he was, no command could be easier, as it properly implied no sacrifice, no painful privation, but simple abstinence from one out of many things; for who would deem it a hardship, while he was sitting at a table covered with all kinds of delicate and substantial foods, to be told that there was one and only one that he was forbidden to taste? It is further evident that no reason could be assigned why Adam should not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil but the Divine prohibition.
The fruit was as good for food as that of any tree, and as pleasant to the eye; and there was nothing sacred in it which would have been profaned by human touch. Hence you will perceive that if God had an intention to make trial of the newly formed subject He could not have chosen a more proper method, as it indicated nothing like a harsh or tyrannical exercise of authority, and was admirably fitted to ascertain whether His simple command would be to him instead of all other reasons for obedience. It is not a proper trial of reverence for a superior when the action which he prescribes is recommended by other considerations. It is when it stands upon the sole foundation of his authority; when, having no intrinsic goodness, it becomes good only by his prohibition; when the sole inducement to perform it is His command. It is in these circumstances it is known whether we duly feel and recognize our moral dependence upon him. The morality of an action does not depend upon its abstract nature. but upon its relation to the law of God. Men seem often to judge of actions as they judge of material substancesby their bulk. What is great in itself, or in its consequences, they will admit to be a sin; but what appears little they pronounce to be a slight fault, or no fault at all.
Had Adam, it has been remarked, been possessed of preternatural power, and wantonly and wickedly exerted it in blasting the beauty of paradise, and turning it into a scene of desolation, men would have granted that he was guilty of a great and daring offence, for which a curse was justly pronounced upon him. But they can see no harm in so trifling a matter as the eating of a little fruit. Nothing, however, is more fallacious than such reasoning: the essence of sin is the transgression of a law and whether that law forbids you to commit murder or to move your finger, it is equally transgressed when you violate the precept. Whatever the act of disobedience is, it is rebellion against the Lawgiver: it is a renunciation of His authority, it dissolves that moral dependence upon Him which is founded on the nature of things, and is necessary to maintain the order and happiness the universe. The injunction therefore to abstain from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a proper trial of our first parent, and the violation of it deserved the dreadful punishment which was denounced and executed. He was put to the test whether the will of God was sacred in his eyes and he was punished because he gave preference to his own will.
Our reason for making a longer quotation than usual from the writings of others is that the one just given is of particular weight and importance and greatly needed in this day. We hope the reader will give it a second and more careful perusal.
It only remains for us to add that the foundation of Adams obligation to render such obedience to God lay, first, in his relations to Him. As his Maker, his Governor, his Benefactor, it was fitting for him to render full subjection to His revealed will. Second, in the privileges and favors bestowed on him : these required that he should express his gratitude and thanksgiving by doing those things which were pleasing in His sight. Third, in his endowments, which qualified him to do so : he was created in Gods image, with a nature that inclined his will to obedienceability and obligation then being coextensive. Fourth, in the relation he sustained to the race: as the head and father of all his progeny, their welfare or ruin was bound up in how he conducted himself, thus greatly augmenting his responsibility to abstain from wrongdoing. Fifth, in that the command forbidding Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge was accompanied by a solemn threat of dire punishment in case of disobedience. Not only should that have acted as an effectual deterrent, but the penalty necessarily implied a promise: since death would be the sure result of disobedience, life would be the reward of obediencenot only a continuation of the blessedness and happiness which he then enjoyed in fellowship with his Maker, but an augmentation of them. That also ought to have served as a powerful incentive to continued fidelity. Thus there was every reason why Adam should have preserved his integrity.
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