but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die."
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.
In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.
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.
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.
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) 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.)
(2) (3) (4) (5) 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.)
(3) (4) (5) 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.)
1. Serves to reconcile science and revelation. 3. Serves to show the value of the gospel. (Homilist.)
1. Serves to reconcile science and revelation.
3. Serves to show the value of the gospel.
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.)
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.)
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 good (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.)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.
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.)
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 —(1) Appears from plain Scripture: "God hath made man upright" (Ecclesiastes 7:29).(2) Man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). And so —(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 (ver. 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) 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" (vers. 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) The relation which the Scripture teaches betwixt Adam and Christ evinces this. The one is called the first Adam, the other the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). the one the first man, the ocher the second man (ver. 47). Now, Christ is not the second man, but as He is a public person, representing all His elect seed in the covenant of grace, being their federal head; therefore Adam was a public person, representing all his natural seed in the covenant of works, being their federal head; for if there be a second man, there must be a first man; if a second representative, there must be a first. Again, Christ is not the last Adam, but as the federal head of the elect, bringing salvation to them by His covenant keeping; therefore the first Adam was the federal head of those whom he brought death upon by his covenant breaking, and these are all: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (ver. 22).(2) Adam's breaking of the covenant is in law their breaking of it; it is imputed to them by a holy God, whose judgment is according to truth, and therefore can never impute to men the sin of which they are not guilty. "All have sinned" (Romans 5:12).(3) The ruins by the breach of that covenant fall on all mankind, not excepting those who are not guilty of actual sin. Hence believers are said to have been "the children of wrath, even as others" (Ephesians 2:3), and that "death hath reigned over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression" (Romans 5:14).(4) The sin and death we come under by Adam, is still restrained unto that sin of his by which he brake the covenant of works. "Through the offence of one many be dead. The judgment was by one to condemnation. By one man's offence death reigned by one. By the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation. By one man's disobedience many were made sinners" (Romans 5:15-19). This representation was just and equal, though we did not make choice of Adam for that effect. The justice and equity of it appears in that —
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 God (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) That in as far as this law was obeyed, the natural law was obeyed; and the breaking of the former was the breaking of the latter also.(2) That whatever is revealed by the Lord to be believed or to be done, the natural law of the ten commandments obliges to the believing or doing of it. "The law of the Lord is perfect" (Psalm 19:7).
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.(1) Perfect in respect of the principle of it. His nature, soul, and heart behoved always to be kept pure and untainted, as the principle of action.(2) Perfect in parts, nowise defective or lame, wanting any part necessary to its integrity (James 1:4).(3) Perfect in degrees (Luke 10:27, 28).
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 —(1) The wonderful condescension of God, and of His goodness and grace toward His creature man.(2) The spotless holiness and exact justice of God against sin.
2. Concerning man in his state of primitive integrity.(1) Man was a holy and happy creature in his first state.(2) Man at his best estate, standing on his own legs, is a fickle creature, liable to change.
3. Concerning Christ the Saviour of sinners, behold here —(1) The absolute necessity of a Surety in the event of a breach of this covenant.(2) The love of Christ to poor sinners in becoming surety for broken man.
4. Concerning man in his fallen state.(1) It is no wonder, that however scarce good works are in the world, yet working to win heaven is so very frequent. Legal principles and practices are natural to men; the covenant of works being that covenant that was made with Adam, and in him with all mankind, and so after a sort engrained in man's nature. And nothing less than the power of grace is able to bring man from off that way, to the salvation by Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:23, 24).(2) Salvation by works of our own is quite impossible; there is no life nor salvation to be had by the law, "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse" (Galatians 3:10).
(T. Boston, D. D.)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 —(1) To display the lustre of His manifold or variegated wisdom (Ephesians 3:10).(2) To show His wonderful moderation. For though He be Sovereign Monarch of the world, and has absolute power over all creatures to dispose of them as He pleases, yet, in covenanting with man, He sweetly tempered His supremacy and sovereign power, seeking, as it were, to reign with man's consent.(3) For the praise of the glory of His grace. It was free condescension on God's part to make such a promise to man's obedience.(4) For venting His boundless love in the communications of His goodness to man.(5) For the manifestation of His truth and faithfulness in keeping covenant with His creature, which could not otherwise have been so gloriously discovered.(6) That He might be the more cleared and justified in resenting the injuries done Him by the disobedience of His creatures, with whom He had condescended to deal so graciously. For the more condescension and goodness there is on God's part, the greater ingratitude appears on man's part in trampling on the Divine goodness, But —
2. God condescended to enter into covenant with man for man's greater good.(1) That thereby He might put the higher honour upon him.(2) To bind him the faster to his duty. The Lord knew man's mutable state, and how slippery and inconstant the heart of man is, where confirming grace is not vouchsafed; therefore, to prevent this inconstancy incident to man, a finite creature, and to establish him in His obedience, He laid him under a covenant obligation to His service.(3) That his obedience might be more cheerful, being that unto which he had willingly tied himself. God chose to rule man by his own consent, rather than by force.(4) For his greater comfort and encouragement. By this he might clearly see what he might expect from God as a reward of his diligence and activity in His service.(5) That He might manifest Himself to him, and deal with him the more familiarly. The dealing by way of covenant is the way of dealing betwixt man and man that hath least of distance in it, and most of familiarity, wherein parties come near to each other with greatest freedom.
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). 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.)
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.)
(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 Protoplast.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.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Word and Work.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.)
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