See, this only have I found, that God has made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.
At first sight it would seem almost incredible that a being endowed and circumstanced as was Adam, probably informed that not only his own happiness, but that of an unnumbered posterity, depended on his obedience to a single command, should have signally failed in his probation, and provoked a curse which the least steadfastness might have averted. Our only business now, however, in examining this matter, is with the truth that "God made man upright," and that in making him upright He had done enough for His creature. You may, indeed, say that God might have so constituted Adam that he should have been incapable of falling, and you may ask, "Why was he not thus constituted?" If you mean that human nature might have been such that to sin would have been impossible, we believe you to assert what is altogether incorrect. An incapacity of sinning is the property of no finite nature. The archangel, sublime in his prowess, is nevertheless finite — and what is finite may be measured and matched by temptation; add you must pass from the created to the uncreated, and bow down before Him who is every way infinite, ere you can find a being of whom to declare that he cannot sin because by nature inaccessible to evil. But then you will say, "If not by nature, undoubtedly by grace, our first parents might have been prevented from yielding; grace in sufficient measure to maintain them in their obedience had been granted to many angels, and might, if God had seen fit, have been granted to man." Yes, it might; but grace, from its very nature, must be altogether free; God may give it or withhold it, according to His pleasure; and if there was no flaw in the original constitution of Adam, his powers having all that perfectness which consisted with creatureship, it could not have been at variance with any attribute of God to withhold that grace which should have kept him from falling. That God should have placed His creature in a share of probation, the trial being quite within the strength, and the reward of obedience unspeakably magnificent, you can imagine nothing more equitable, nothing more worthy every way of Deity; but there can be no probation where there is that prevention which you think might have been extended to Adam; if you allow it worthy of God to place His creature on trial, you make it indispensable that He should suffer him to fall. But if there still lurk a feeling in your minds — a feeling not to be met by argu-ment-that it was unlike a merciful God to permit His creature to work out for himself a heritage of woe and of shame, why, then, we call upon you to remember that, whilst allowing the evil, God had determined the antidote. I doubt not the glory of an unfallen man, I question not the splendour and loveliness of an unblighted paradise; very noble must Adam have been, and beautiful amidst the surrounding creation, when God conversed familiarly with man, and earth was as the shrine of its Maker; and sublime, indeed, would have been the spectacle, and majestic our inheritance, had each of us been born in the image of God, and secured against losing the resemblance; but I would not exchange what I am, if linked by faith with the Mediator Christ, for what I should have been bad Adam never transgressed. I know not what place would then have belonged to our nature amongst the orders of creation, but this I know, that now it is associated with the Divine, and imagination itself fails to measure its dignity. I know that by occupying my place, suffering and obeying in my stead, the Son of God has done vastly more than reinstate me in my forfeited possession: He has set me "far above principalities and powers": He has opened to me happiness which is not to be reached by aught else created; He has brought me into a relationship with Deity, which could not have resulted from creation. Oh! then, to murmur because Adam was allowed to destroy us by his apostasy is to forget or deny that Christ redeemed us by His agony; to make it matter of complaint that we were suffered to fall is to repine at being placed unspeakably higher than we originally stood. It was not through any fault in his original constitution that Adam fell away. That constitution was, indeed, mutable, because Adam was a creature, and no created nature, not the very highest, can in itself be immutable. But there was no defect in Adam, unless you choose to reckon it a defect that he was finite. The understanding could immediately distinguish truth from error; the will was prompt to follow the verdict of the understanding; and the passions were all held in thorough subordination; so that, comparing the circumstances and the endowments of Adam, you may see that he possessed sufficient power for passing successfully through his probation, and that, having been created, he might, had he chosen, have continued in uprightness. Just, then, and true, and merciful was God in His dealings with the father of our race, for man could not have fallen had he not of his own will "sought out inventions." This brief description has been applicable from the first. It was that they might "be as gods," that they might "know good and evil," that they might advance themselves in the scale of intelligence, for this it was that Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit and set at nought the positive command. They tried the experiment, and, with all the consequences of failure, bequeathed to their children the fatal wish to invent good for themselves rather than seek it in God. The many inventions which we seek out; the schemes, even where there is the light of revelation, for being ourselves the authors, either in whole or in part, of our own deliverance, these are continued evidences that we are the children of those who even in paradise planned their own exaltation and thought to be wiser than God. We imitate our forefather, resolving to be ourselves the architects of our greatness, and therefore building on the quicksand; neglecting, as he did, the simple declarations of revelation, we take our own way of acquiring knowledge and learn it by being lost. Oh! for the spirit of St. Paul — "I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." I read the history of human transgression and ruin. I read it in the pages of Scripture; I read it in the throes and the convulsions of a disorganized world. I then turn to the record of redemption. I find that God has graciously taken into His own hands the work of my salvation. I learn that, though fallen, He is ready to exalt me; though corrupted, He is willing to purify, though worthy of condemnation, He offers me forgiveness and pardon.
(H. Melvill, B. D.).
Parallel VersesKJV: Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.