Then the LORD God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.
I. THEIR RECURRRNCE IN SCRIPTURE. They link the paradise of unfallen man to that of redeemed man. Actual channels of life and blessing, they were also figures of that salvation which the history of the world was gradually to unfold. But sin came, and death; present possession was lost. What remained was the promise of a Savior. We pass over much of preparation for his coming: the selection of a people; the care of God for his vineyard; the ordinances and services foreshadowing the gospel. Then a time of trouble: Jerusalem a desolation; the people in captivity; the temple destroyed; the ark gone; sacrifices at an end. "Where is now thy God?" Where thy hope? Such the state of the world when a vision given to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 47:1-12), reproducing the imagery of Eden, but adapted to the need of fallen man. Again we have the stream; now specially to heal. Its source the mercy-seat (comp. Ezekiel 43:1-7; Ezekiel 47:1; Revelation 22:1). And the trees; not different from the tree of life (Ezekiel 47:12: "It shall bring forth new fruit"); varied manifestations of grace; for food and for medicine. But observe, the vision is of a coming dispensation. Again a space. Our Savior's earthly ministry over. The Church is struggling on. The work committed to weak hands; the treasure in earthen vessels. But before the volume of revelation closed, the same symbols are shown in vision to St. John (Revelation 22:1, 2). The "river of water of life" (cf. "living water," John 4:10), and the tree whose fruit and leaves are for food and healing. Meanwhile our Lord had said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness." A link to connect this with Genesis 2. is Revelation 2:7 (cf. also Revelation 12:11). And again, the word used for "tree" in all these passages is that used for the cross in Galatians 3:13 and 1 Peter 2:24.
II. THEIR SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE. The tree with its fruit and leaves are the manifestation of Christ to the soul - to sinners pardon, to the weak support and guidance, to saints communion. And the stream is the gospel (the four-parted river in Eden has been likened to the four Gospels), spreading throughout the world, bringing healing, light, and life; enabling men to rejoice in hope. But mark, the drops of which that stream is composed are living men. The gospel spreads from heart to heart, and from lip to lip (cf. John 7:38). Forming part of that healing flood are preachers of the gospel in every place and way; and thinkers contending for the faith; and men mighty in prayer; and those whose loving, useful lives set forth Christ; and the sick silently preaching patience; and the child in his little ministry. There is helping work for all. The Lord hath need of all. To each one the question comes, Art thou part of that stream? Hast thou realized the stream of mercy, the gift of salvation for thine own need? And cans, thou look at the many still unhealed and be content to do nothing? Thou couldst not cause the stream to flow; but it is thine to press the "living water" upon others, to help to save others Art thou doing this? Is there not within the circle of thy daily life some one in grief whom Christian sympathy may help, some anxious one whom a word of faith may strengthen, some undecided one who may be influenced? There is thy work. Let the reality of Christ's gift and his charge to thee so fill thy heart that real longing may lead to earnest prayer; then a way will be opened. - M.
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).
To dress it and to keep it.I. 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(1) by taking away the use of the calling itself, as of a soldier in time of peace; or by disenabling him, either in body or mind, to follow it, as Nebuchadnezzar was forced to cease ruling, when he was mad.(2) Or by withdrawing his needful maintenance: they cannot serve at the altar that cannot live of the altar.(3) Or by furnishing the person with abilities, fitting him with opportunities, or urging him by just occasions to undertake some more serviceable employment.
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 God (Isaiah 28:26).
4. The success and effect of the labour which we bestow is the fruit of this blessing (Genesis 26:12; Psalm 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.)
(H. Bonar, D. D.)
(G. D. Boardman.)
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