THE FALL OF MAN|
THUS the man and the woman were created on the same day; so that Adam could only have been in existence a few hours before his wife. Nothing was wanting to complete their joy save the certainty that it would be lasting; and on this point they probably felt no fear. For what suspicion had they of the power of evil : how could they read in all that surrounded them the destruction of mightier creations ? They knew not the secrets of the ground on which they trod: they rejoiced in the flowery verdure, and saw not the ruins of world beneath world reaching far into the bowels of the earth. They dreamt not that the blue sea was rippling over a vast prisonhouse of sin ; that the very atmosphere above them was swarming with fallen angels and the disembodied spirits of those who had rebelled against the Most High.
And they, too, were destined to be [= only, were about to be] overcome of evil: they were soon to experience the meaning of that awful word, death, which the lips of their Creator had uttered ; to feel the terrors of His wrath, the desolation of ruin, the horrors of corruption. For the all-wise God well knew the great obstacle to perfection in the creature, and that, until it could be removed, He was unable to show forth His love and pour out His bounty to the full. He could not endow men with great power and wisdom; He could not make them excellent in majesty and glorious in might, swift as the winds or the lightning to do His will, until they had passed the danger of abusing His gifts, and so falling as the sinful angels had done before them.
Therefore they should not be perfect from the day of their creation; but, by a painful yet most salutary experience, should learn their own creature weakness: they should be imprisoned in bodies of humiliation (Phil. iii. 21) : they should be left to try what their own strength could do, to endeavour to save themselves by their own arm amid the hostile powers of darkness, which should not, therefore, be at once consigned to the doom of the obstinately rebellious : they should fall, but by the merciful prearrangement of God not an eternally fatal, not a hopeless fall : they should know what it is to abide in sin, and so to be consumed by His anger, to be troubled by His wrath, to be subjected to vanity, wasting, and decay: with shuddering awe they should enter into the thickening darkness which enshrouds the dread portals of death : all their beauty should turn to corruption, their bodies, however majestic or fair, become repulsive and loathsome.
And through and out of all this they should be saved by a power not their own: benighted, helpless, distraught, not knowing whither to turn, they should be led by the hand of Another: their sin, which they would be utterly unable to expiate, should be punished in the person of a Substitute; the only begotten Son of their loving Creator should die in their stead. Thus should they be taught the absolute dependence of the creature upon the love and power of the Almighty God.
And if they could humble themselves under His almighty hand; if they could trust Him in the time of their darkness; believe that He was causing all things to work together for their good; and thankfully accept His way of peace and salvation-then, after a little space, the days of their mourning should be ended. He would wash away every stain of sin or tears: instead of the garment of corruption He Would invest them with the robes of immortality: He would place the crown of life upon their head: everlasting joy should break forth upon them without the possibility of an intervening cloud: nay, many of them, gifted by His favour with a more complete submission, with a stronger faith, should even be exalted to sit down upon the throne of His Son, and, under Him, to rule in glory over that very earth which had been the scene of their hopes and fears, of their gloomy and toilsome wanderings, while they bore about with them the body of this present condition of death (Rom. vii. 24).
Such seems to be an outline of God's purposes in regard to man, as indicated in the Scriptures : such the reason of our sojourn here in weakness, continual liability to misery, and certain progress to decay. Satan first awoke to consciousness in the dazzling light of God's glory, to find himself a mighty prince, perfect in wisdom and beauty (Ezek. xxviii. 12-15). But, having known no other condition, he thought that his power and his splendour proceeded from himself, lost his sense of dependence, and fell without hope.1 In our case God's foresight and mercy prevented this irremediable ruin.
1. [Does Scripture show that Satan from his original fall was without hope ? See PP. 54, 55.]
Therefore our being begins in darkness, far from the light and joy of His presence: we are no princes, but slaves to those horrible despots sin and corruption: our beauty is faulty and evanescent: our wisdom is foolishness: our purposes are continually broken off : our bodies date their tendency to dissolution from the day of our birth. Yet there is a hand stretched out to lead us through the night: and if we grasp it, giving up our own ideas of the right way, it will guide us along a road, rough, toilsome and perilous indeed, but which will at length bring us safely to the home of our Father.
And then, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality: when, after having borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly : when we shall rest, no longer in hope, but in abundant and never-failing satisfaction after awaking in God's likeness : then at length shall we have attained the goal of our being, the position for which He created us, nay, to which He ordained us before the foundation of the world. Then shall we know why He bade us consider ourselves strangers and pilgrims upon earth : then shall we feel His meaning when He told us that while in the flesh we are but in a state of death, our real life being hid with Christ in God (Rom. vii. 24 ; Col- iii. 3) : then, when the heavenly treasure is unlocked before our wondering gaze, shall we understand to the full His dark saying: "And if ye have not been faithful in that which is Another's, who shall give you that which is your own ? " (Luke xvi. 12).
Nor, after having been thus led through darkness and perils to God, shall we feel any wish to stray out into the night again. With such a retrospect we shall not be tempted to think that our glory and beauty are an inseparable part of ourselves. And not only shall we have learnt by a fearful experience the dependence of creatures, but our whole being will be penetrated with a burning and unquenchable love of our Creator.
For even in this life how great do His mercies seem! But when once we find ourselves safe in the Paradise of God, freed for ever from the assaults of the world, the flesh and the devil, the first backward glance at the dangers we have just escaped will, perhaps, act upon us with greater power than the whole course of discipline through which we may have previously passed. For we shall then see our fearful accumulation of sin, understand its appalling nature, and be lost in amazement at the love which bore with us while we went on day, after day repeating and multiplying transgression. We shall look back upon the many thousand perils out of which we were from time to time delivered, and only a very few of which we had even suspected. We shall behold the horrid and innumerable hosts of darkness, from whose malignant power we were defended for so many years, and at length finally rescued, by a Mightier than they. We shall gaze upon the pit prepared for them, into which we also must needs have descended had not a ransom been found, even the most precious blood of the Lord Jesus.
And as we turn away from these dark and painful scenes during the whole time of our connection with which there is but a step betwixt us and death-to the bright smile of our reconciled God, to the glory given to us, to the golden city prepared for our habitation, to the eternity of ever-deepening joy before us, shall we not, emptied at last of pride and self, will, and over-powered with humble gratitude, cry aloud, with a strength of love and devotion unknown to this world, " Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever!"
And with such thoughts as these should we comfort one another whenever we are in sorrow and heaviness during our present brief season of trial.
We must now return to Adam and Eve, whom we left enjoying in innocence the pleasures which God had provided for them. But short, indeed, was their time of happiness : for the powers of evil were already setting the fatal snare. And they were, perhaps, stimulated to their fell purpose, not only by pure malignity and the wish to oppose God whenever they could do so indirectly, but also by a desire to prolong their own reign. For, knowing themselves to be rebels, they were probably well aware that the Almighty never intended sinless man to be subject to them, and that in Adam He was raising up a seed, not merely to inhabit the earth, but also to take possession of the realms of air. Hence we can easily understand their anxiety to retard, at least, the counsel of God by reducing the new creation to their own level of sin and ruin. And, perchance, they may have known from experience that the result would be a delay of long ages, during which the mercy of the Supreme would grant His creatures time for repentance and recovery.
The plan of Satan showed that God had not yet deprived him of his wisdom ; though, alas ! it had been changed by his fall from the noble power of a prince of the Most High to the cunning of a deceitful intriguer! He would not make his assault with power and terror: for that would drive the assailed into the arms of their Protector instead of drawing them away from Him, and their earnest cries for help would quickly call down hot lightnings upon their daring foe. But he would present himself in the form of an inferior and subject animal, from which they would never suspect harm.. For, like all his children of this world, Satan, though proud even to destruction, can yet degrade himself to the very dust in order to carry out his purposes.
He would not essay the man and the woman together: for combined they might uphold one another in the obedience and love of God. And he well knew that, if he were once detected and baffled, a second attempt would be attended with far more serious difficulties; nay, might by some appeal of Adam to God be rendered altogether impracticable.
Again ; two reasons seem to have deterred him from tempting Adam alone. For had he commenced by overcoming the man, and then through him worked the fall of the woman, her ruin would have been incomplete: she would not have been wholly without excuse before God, since she would have acted under the orders or influence of the one whom He had set over her.
And secondly; man, as we have before seen, consists of three parts, spirit, soul, and body; and of these the soul is predominant in consequence of its power over the body. Now it is just in this point that the weakness of man lies, in the fact that his body is psychic and not spiritual. But Adam was created directly from the image of God, Eye only mediately so. If, then, the man was an imperfect image through the predominance of his soul, this defect would naturally be increased in the woman, who would, therefore, be the more susceptible of outward form and beauty, and of all emotions connected with the sense- and self-consciousness, while the influence of her spirit would be proportionally diminished. On this second account also Satan would seem to have chosen her as the fittest object for his first attack.
Influenced, then, by some such considerations as these, the powers of evil either watched till Adam was absent, or, perhaps, by that mysterious power which we often feel but cannot explain, drew him away from his wife, and, when she was left alone, enticed her through the garden towards the tree in its midst. It may be that their suggestions set her musing on the strangeness of God's prohibition. Wherefore did He plant the tree in their garden if they were not to enjoy it ? What so great difference could there be between it and the other trees of which they might eat at pleasure ? And then, perhaps, a foolish curiosity may have moved her to examine the forbidden object, in order to see if she could detect its peculiarity.
But, however it happened, she at any rate suffered herself to be allured to the fatal spot, and so gave opportunity to the Devil. For we should keep as far as possible from that which is prohibited, nor ever tempt God by unnecessarily approaching it, either through curiosity or any other impelling cause. Had Eve avoided the vicinity of the tree, she could never have cast upon it that look which ruined herself and the world. And how many of her descendants have worked their own woe in the same way, by lingering on the borders of wrong, by too curiously examining, by wishing to understand too well, that which they knew to be evil!
While Eve was standing near the tree a serpent approached and addressed her. The fact that she was not startled by such an occurrence seems to point to the existence of an intelligent communication between man and the inferior creatures before the fall. But we must not, of course, think of the serpent as the repulsive and venomous reptile to which we now feel an instinctive antipathy. For it had not then been cursed, but held itself upright, the most intelligent and, probably, the most beautiful of all the beasts of the field. It is an interesting fact that in that remarkable sculpture-the oldest surviving representation of the fall-which was found in the temple of Osiris at Phylae, Eve is seen offering the fruit to Adam, the tree is between them, and the serpent stands by in an erect posture. Perhaps it sustained itself by wings; and indeed the epithet " flying " is applied to the saraph or fiery species in a passage of Isaiah (Isa. xiv. 29). The creature was, then, free from venom, and not improbably winged, while its scales glittered in the sun like burnished gold. Perhaps, too, it was recognized by Eve as the most intelligent and most companionable of all animals ; and thus in every way it would be the most fitted for pleasing her eye and attracting her attention.
Little did she suspect that a powerful enemy lurked beneath that beautiful and apparently innocent form : as little as did the disciples imagine that their own and their Master's bitter foe was sitting at meat with them in the body of Judas Iscariot. Nor can we at any time be sure of our safety from similar ambuscades. But there is one test always possible, which, like Ithuriel's spear, compels Satan to assume his true form, and which might have saved Eve. We should surmise the worst, and act accordingly, as soon as we hear one suggestion opposed to God's will and laws: and we should be so much the more on our guard in proportion as it comes from an unlikely source, and is craftily mingled with truth.
" Can it be true that God has forbidden you to eat of any tree of the garden ? " began the serpent. Perhaps the fact that Eve was casting a longing eye upon the tree and yet abstained from touching it suggested this crafty question. Simple as it may at first appear, it was wondrously full of fascinating guile, marvellously adapted to the purpose of disturbing the moral being of Eve, and so preparing the way for its complete subversion. The tempter affects to think that she abstains because God has harshly forbidden herself and her husband to touch any of the beautiful fruit around them. And so by his brief, but most skilful, interrogation he begins to envelop her in the mists of error from at least five outspringing suggestions. First ; he throws her off her guard by his assumed ignorance. Secondly; he stirs up vanity from the depths of her self-consciousness by giving her an opportunity to correct and instruct him. Thirdly; he uses the term Elohim, and not the covenant name Jehovah, to represent the Creator as far distant, and as having but little concern with His creatures. Fourthly; he puts in a doubt as to whether God had uttered the prohibition, and hints at the possibility of a mistake. And lastly; he insinuates the blasphemous thought that harshness and caprice on God's part are not inconceivable, but may sometimes be expected.
The blinding effects of this question are immediately evident in Eve's answer. She replies that they may eat of the other trees of the garden, and are only warned off from the one in its midst. Of this alone God had said, " Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die." But God had not prohibited them to touch it: and hence we seem to see in the exaggeration of this added clause a secret discontent and an inclination to set the command of the Almighty in as harsh a light as possible.
Nor is this all: not only does she increase the stringency of the law, but she also weakens the penalty. God had said, " Thou shalt surely die," which she alters into, " lest ye die." Doubt was already doing its work in her mind, she was now prepared to hear the truth of God openly denied.
And yet again she follows Satan's lead into the dark, and speaks of her Creator and Benefactor as Elohim-the Power, mighty indeed, but to men vague, distant, and almost unknown-instead of Jehovah, the God in covenant with her husband and herself. Satan wished to banish from her heart all thought of a near and closely connected God, and she accepts his suggestion and co-operates with him. For the image of Jehovah is rapidly fading from her mind, and self and sin are beginning to take its place.
Solemn is the warninG which the analysis of her thoughts affords to her descendants, to the offspring by whom her own sad path is ceaselessly trodden. For how often, when we are perfectly aware of some direct command of God which we do not wish to obey, are we seduced into an exaggeration of its magnitude and its inconvenience, till at length, by the continual play of evil imaginings, we almost arrive at its impossibility. At the same time we strive to diminish its importance, and the penalty which its neglect is likely to involve, not perceiving that, while we are thus working out our own will in defiance of the will of God, His Holy Spirit is gradually withdrawing from us, and that our God-consciousness-or, as it would be ordinarily termed, religious feeling-is becoming weaker and weaker. Not so, however, the sin within us, which is proportionally growing and acquiring strength; till at last, when our eyes are again opened, we find it like some horrible tumour, which, loathsome and painful as it is to bear, has been so long neglected that it will scarce leave life in us if it be removed.
Satan quickly perceived the state of Eve's mind: his plan was succeeding: she had begun to doubt. He instantly pressed on his attack by a bold lie combined with a truth, indeed, so far as it went, but one presented in characteristically Satanic fashion, so that the woman might miss its real import, and interpret it in accordance with her own rising vanity. " Ye shall not surely die," said this liar from the beginning, -thus daring to place his own assertion in opposition to the Almighty.
And Eve believed him ; believed this beast of the field as she supposed him to be, rather than the great Creator Of all things! Earth laden with her countless tombs is ever sighing for the credulity: Ocean, as his chasing waves roll over the bones of multitudes lying amid their unheeded treasures, moans in response: and Hades, while his vast realms are being daily peopled by fresh colonies of unclothed spirits, solemnly proclaims that God is true.
" For God doth know," pursued the Tempter, " that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God "-for so we ought to translate-" knowing good and evil." Truly Jehovah did know this: but why did it not occur to Eve that He must also have known more ; that this opening of their eyes would be no addition to their happiness, but harmful and destructive ? Could she not by a moment's reflection perceive the fearful responsibility which the knowledge of evil would necessarily involve, and bless the Lord Who had spared her from its perils ? Or could she not, at least, trust Him Who had called her into being, and of Whose hands from that time she had received nothing but good, and turn with horror from the blasphemous impiety which suggested to her the possibility of in any way raising herself to His height ? She could not, for she was deceived: her reason was perverted by desire ; the vision of selfexaltation had intoxicated her. There was no error in Satan's judgment: he had detected the weakest point when he appealed to her vanity and suggested to her the idea of becoming as God.
Does not the readiness with which she received the daring thought show the necessity of our present state of weakness ? Does it not sufficiently explain the fact that a broken and a contrite heart is the first indispensable condition of entering into the Kingdom of the Heavens ? (Matt. v. 3). And do we not continually perceive, both in ourselves and others, the workings of that feeling upon which Satan played in the case of our first parent ? Does it not appear in self-will, which is the determination to be obeyed as God instead of obeying ? Is it not evident in pride and conceit, whether arising from birth, ability, beauty, wealth, or any other source ? May it not be traced in that boundless self-confidence which puts forth its own wisdom and opinions as alone worthy of notice, and expects them to be received with gratitude and deferred to by all ? And, perhaps, its very worst aspect is seen in the complacency with which men listen to reproof and correction richly deserved by themselves, but which they forthwith apply only to others.
Carried away, then, by the new feeling aroused in her, Eve turned and gazed upon the tree, while Satan plied her with the three temptations which from that time he has ever employed to ruin the human race-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
She saw that the tree was good for food. That was the lust of the flesh, and corresponded to the Lord's temptation to turn stones into bread. But how different the circumstances and the result ! Eve was surrounded with plenty, every other tree in the garden was hers ; yet she must needs cast a longing eye upon that which had not been given; her pride and selfwill make that one seem more desirable than all the rest. The Lord was in the midst of a desert and faint from hunger : yet He would not break through the limits of His manhood, but submissively waited till His Father sent relief.
Again ; Eve saw that the tree was pleasant to the eye. That was the lust of the eyes, and corresponded to the offer of all the kingdoms of this world and their glory to Christ. And though the whole garden was filled with objects of beauty on which she might have gazed with lawful pleasure, Eve, nevertheless, discarded them all for that which God had forbidden. The Lord, on the other hand, as man, possessed nothing, and yet refused with indignation the accumulated beauties, glories, and pleasures of the whole world spread out in one view before His gaze.
Lastly ; Eve saw that the tree was a tree to be desired to make one wise. That was the pride of life, and corresponded to our Lord's temptation to throw Himself from the pinnacle of the temple. Eve wished to raise her condition, and yet there was none greater than herself upon earth save her husband. But the Lord, though despised and rejected of men, and known only as the carpenter's son of Nazareth, refused to descend from the pinnacle of the temple, and be at once hailed by the assembled multitude below as the long-expected sign from heaven, as the royal Messiah.
Eve had thus first given way to doubt, afterwards submitted to hear direct contradiction of God, and lastly turned to gaze upon the forbidden tree. Then the torrent of her desire rose with such impetuous violence that it carried away every barrier; and without waiting to consult her husband, without pausing to think of her God, she put forth her hand, and in a moment the fatal deed, which nearly six thousand years have not sufficed to obliterate, was accomplished. The days of Eve's innocence were ended: and shortly afterwards, upon the arrival of her husband, she afforded another sad instance of that selfishness of sin, of that insatiable and reckless desire on the part of the fallen. to involve others in their own miserable ruin, which had been previously exhibited by Satan. For the tempted immediately became the tempter.
Now Paul expressly tells us that Adam was not deceived, but only the woman (I Tim. ii. 4). For she, when Satan made known to her the qualities of the fruit, at once admitted as the only possible explanation of God's prohibition that He was either ungracious or feared rivals. But Adam probably saw both the impiety and the utter folly of such an imagination, knew that the command was undoubtedly given in God's wisdom for their good, and was, perhaps, not a little confirmed in this view by the condition in which he found his wife. We seem, therefore, to be driven upon the supposition that excessive love bent him to her entreaties, and made him determine to share her fate. And herein we see his unfitness to receive such a gift from God; for though he had done well to love her better than himself, he was hopelessly entangled in the snare of folly when he so idolized her as to transgress for her sake the law of her Creator.
Thus did the Prince of this World prevail. The new creation had been seduced to rebellion; there was no longer any bar to the resumption of his dominion. Forth from the ground he rose triumphant, and expanded his shadowy wings over the recovered territory, impeding the pure rays of God's sun, and dropping thick the poisonous mists of sin, under which earth's flowers faded, her fruits withered, her plenty was restrained, and she brought forth evil as well as good.