Giant of the Bible

Sec. I. - Adam (Chap. iii.)

THE third chapter of Genesis is the real commencement of that series of lives of which as is plain, the book mainly consists. It is where the first man ceases to be "a type of Him that was to come" that he becomes for us a type in the fullest way - figure and fact in one. The page of his life (and but a page it is) that treats of innocency is not our example who were born in sin. Our history begins as fallen, and so too the history of our new life in God’s grace. Figure and fact, as I have observed, are blended together here. We must be prepared for this, which we shall find in some measure the case all through these histories. Especially in this first one of all, what could be more impressive for us than the unutterably solemn fact itself? Children as we are of the fall, its simple record is the most perfect revelation that could be made of what we are in what is now our native condition, and also of how this came to be such. It is the title-deed to our sad inheritance of sin.

And yet what follows in closest connection may well enable us to look at it steadfastly; for the ruins of the old creation have been, as we know, materials which God has used to build up for Himself that new one in which He shall yet find (and we with Him) eternal rest. A simple question entertained in the woman’s soul is the loss of innocence forever. It is enough only to admit a question as to Infinite Love to ruin all. This the serpent knew full well when he said unto the woman, "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" - that is, Has God indeed said so? In her answer you can see at once how that has done its work. She is off the ground of faith, and is reasoning; and the moment reasoning as to God begins, the soul is away from Him, and then further it is impossible by searching to find Him out.

Thus in Paradise itself, with all the evidence of divine goodness before her eyes, she turns infidel at once. "And the woman said unto the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, LEST ye die.’ " Notice how plain it is that she is already fallen. She has admitted the question as to the apparent strangeness of God’s ways, and immediately her eyes fasten upon the forbidden thing until she can see little else. God had set (chap. ii. 9.) the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and without any prohibition. For the woman now it is the forbidden tree that occupies that place. Instead of life, she puts death (or what was identified with it for her) as the central thing. The "garden of delight" has faded from her eyes. It has become to her the very garden of fable afterward* (where all was not fable, but this very scene as depicted by him who was now putting it before the enchanted gaze of his victim) in which the one golden-fruited tree hung down its laden branches, guarded from man only by the dragon’s jealousy. But here God and the dragon had changed places. Thus she adds to the prohibition, as if to justify herself against One who has lost His sovereignty for her heart, "Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it" - which He had not said. A mere touch, as she expressed it to herself, was death; and why, then, had He put it before them only to prohibit it? What was it He was guarding from them with such jealous care? Must it not be indeed something that He valued highly?
*The garden of Hesperides.

She first adds to the prohibition, then she weakens the penalty. Instead of "ye shall surely die," it is for her only "lest [for fear] ye die." There is no real certainty that death would be the result. Thus the question of God’s love becomes a question of His truth also. I do not want upon the throne a being I cannot trust; hence comes the tampering with His word. The heart deceives the head. If I do not want it to be true, I soon learn to question if it be so. All this length the woman, in her first and only answer to the serpent, goes. He can thus go further, and step at once into the place of authority with her which God has so plainly lost. He says, not- "Ye shall not surely die" - for so much the woman had already said - but "Surely ye shall not die." Her feeble question of it becomes on his part the peremptory. denial both of truth and love in God: "Surely ye shall not die; for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened; and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." How sure he is of his dupe! She on her part needs no further solicitation: "And when the woman saw that the tree was good" - she was seeing through the devil’s eyes now - "that the tree was good for food" - there the lust of the flesh was doing its work - "and that it was pleasant to the eyes" - there the lust of the eyes comes out - "and a tree to be desired to make one wise" - there the pride of life is manifested - "she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and gave also to her husband with her, and he did eat."

Thus the sin was consummated. And herein we may read, if we will, as clear as day, our moral genealogy. These are still our own features, as in a glass, naturally. Let us pause and ponder them for a moment, as we may well do, seriously and solemnly. It is clear as can be that with the heart man first of all disbelieved. His primary condition was not, as some would so fain persuade us, that of a seeker by his natural reason after God. God had declared Himself in a manner suited to his condition, in goodness which he had only to enjoy, and which was demonstration to his every sense and faculty of the moral character of Him from whose hand all came to him. The very prohibition should have been his safeguard, reminding the sole master of that fair and gladsome scene, were he tempted to forget it, that he had himself a Master. Nay, would not the prohibited tree itself have proved itself still "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," had he respected the prohibition, by giving him to learn what sin was in a way he could not else have known it, as "lawlessness," insubjection to the will of God?

The entertaining of a question as to God was, as we have seen, man’s ruin. He has been a questioner ever since. Having fallen from the sense of infinite goodness, he either remains simply unconscious of it, - his gods the mere deification of his lusts and passions, - or, if conscience be too strong for this, involves himself in toilsome processes of reasoning at the best, to find out as afar off the God who is so nigh. He reasons as to whether He that formed the ear can hear, or He that made the eyes can see, or He that gave man knowledge know, or, no less foolishly, whether He from whom comes the ability to conceive of justice, goodness, mercy, love, has these as His attributes or not! Still the heart deceives the head: what he wills, that he believes. For a holy God would be against his lusts, and a righteous God take vengeance on his sins; and how can God be good and the world so evil, or love man and let him suffer and die?

Thus man reasons, taken in the toils of him who has helped him to gain the knowledge of which he boasts, - so painful and so little availing. The way out of all this entanglement is a very simple one, however unwelcome it may be. He has but to judge himself for what he is, to escape out of his captor’s hands. Self-judgment would justify the holiness and righteousness of God, and make him find in his miseries, not the effect of God’s indifference as to him, but of his own sins. It would make him also at least suspect the certainty of his own conclusions, which so many selfish interests might combine to warp. But still "Ye shall be as gods" deceives him, and thus he will judge everything, and God also, rather than himself. And so, being his own god, he becomes the victim of his own pride - his god is his belly, as Scripture expresses it; insufficient to himself, and unable to satisfy the cravings of a nature which thus, even in its degradation, bears witness of having been created for something more, he falls under the power of his own lust, the easy dupe of any bait that Satan can prepare for him.

It is thus evident how the fall from God - the loss of confidence in divine goodness - is the secret of his whole condition, - of both his moral corruption and his misery together. For let my circumstances be what they may, if I can see them ordered for me unfailingly by One in whom infinite wisdom, power, and goodness combine, and whose love toward me I am assured of, my restlessness is gone, my will subjected to that other will in which I can but acquiesce and delight: I have "escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust," and I have been delivered from the misery attendant upon it. To this, then, must the heart be brought back; and thus it is very simple how "with the heart man believeth to righteousness." The faith that is real and operative in the soul (and no other can of course be of any value), first of all and above all in order to holiness, works peace and restoration of the heart to God and, let me say, of God to the heart. How fatal, yet how common, a mistake to invert this order! And what an inlet of blessedness it is thus to cease from one’s own natural self-idolatry in the presence of a God who is really (and worthy to be) that! There is no such blessedness beside.

But we must return to look at man’s natural condition. Notice how surely this leprosy of sin spreads, and most surely to those nearest and most intimate. Tempted ourselves, we become tempters of others, and are not satisfied until we drag down those who love us - I cannot say 'whom we love', for this is too horrible to be called love - to our own level. Nay, if even we would consciously do no such thing, we cannot help doing all we can to effect it. We dress up sin for them in the most alluring forms; we invest them with an atmosphere of it which they breathe without suspicion. The woman may be here more efficient than the serpent. Herself deceived, she does not deceive the man, but she allures him. The victory is easier, speedier, than that over herself: "She gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat." The first effect is, "their eyes were opened;" the first "invention," of which they have sought out so many since, an apron to hide their shame from their own eyes.

Thus conscience begins in shame, and sets them at work upon expedients, whereby they may haply forget their sins, and attain respectability at least, if conscience be no more possible. How natural such a thought is we are all witnesses to ourselves, and yet it is a thing full of danger. It was the effort to retain just such a fig-leaf apron which sent the accusers of the adulteress out of the presence of the Lord. "Let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone at her" had been like a lightning-flash, revealing to themselves their own condition. They were "convicted in their own consciences;" but a convicted conscience does not always lead to self judgment or to God: and "they, convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest" - the one who naturally would have most character to uphold, - "even unto the last," and left the sinner in the only possible safe place for a sinner - in the presence of the sinner’s Saviour. She, whose fig-leaf apron was wholly gone, who had no more character or respectability to maintain, could stay. This was what the loss of that still left to her; and so had He said to the Pharisees, "The publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." This is the misery still of man’s first invention, which in so many shapes he still repeats. When the voice of the Lord God is heard in the garden, the fig-leaf apron avails nothing. He hides himself from God among the trees of the garden: "I was afraid, because I was naked," is his own account.

This is what alternates ever with self-justification in a soul: the voice of God - the thought of God - is terror to it. These two principles will be found together in every phase of so-called natural religion the world over, and they will be found equally wherever Christianity itself is mutilated or misapprehended, making their appearance again. Man, in short, untaught of God, never gets beyond them; for he never can quite believe that he has for God a righteousness that He will accept, and he never can imagine God Himself providing a righteousness when he has none. Hence, fear is the controlling principle always. His religiousness is an effort to avert wrath, in reality, if it might be, to get away from God: and even with the highest profession it may be, still "there is none that seeketh after God." Notice thus, the Lord’s picture of the "elder son" in the parable, who, hard-working, respectable, no wanderer from his father, no prodigal, but righteously severe on him who has spent his living with harlots, finds it yet a service barren enough of joy. The music and dancing in the father’s house are a strange sound to him: when he hears it, he calls a servant to know what it all means. His own friends, and his merriment, are all outside, spite of his correct deportment, and he speaks out what is in his heart toward his father when he says, "Thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends." There the Lord holds up the mirror for the Pharisee of all time. Plenty of self-assertion, of self-vindication, even as against God Himself; the tie to Him, self-interest; his heart elsewhere; a round of barren and joyless services.

This must needs break down in terror when God comes really in: indeed, the principle all through is fear, - servile, not filial. So Adam hides himself among the trees of the garden, but the voice of the blessed God follows him. "And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, ‘Where art thou?’ " Here, then, we begin to trace the actings of divine grace with a sinner. Righteousness has its way no less, and judgment is not set aside, but maintained fully. And herein is shown out the harmony of the divine attributes, the moral unity of the God whose attributes they are. There is no conflict in His nature. Justice and mercy, holiness and love, are not at war in Him. When He acts, all act. Let us mark, then, first of all, this questioning of Adam on the part of God. Three several times we find these questions. He questions the man, questions the woman; the serpent He does not question, but proceeds instead immediately to judgment. Plainly there is something significant in this. For it cannot be thought that the Omniscient needed to know the things that He inquired about; therefore, if not for His own sake, it must have been for man’s sake He made the inquiry. It was, in fact, the appeal to man for confidence in One who on His part had done nothing to forfeit it; the gracious effort to bring him to own, in the presence of his Creator, his present condition and the sin which had brought him into it.

It is still in this way that we find entrance into the enjoyed favour of a Saviour-God: "we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand," the "goodness of God" leading "to repentance." Confidence in that goodness enables us to take true ground before God, and enables Him thus, according to the principles of holy government, to show us His mercy. Not in self-righteous efforts to excuse ourselves, nor yet in self-sufficient promises for the future, but "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." To this confession do these questionings of God call these first sinners of the human race. Because there is mercy for them, they are invited to cast themselves upon it. Because there is none for the serpent, there is in his case no question. But let us notice also the different character of these questions, as well as the order of them. Each of these has its beauty and significance. The first question is an appeal to Adam to consider his condition, - the effect of his sin, rather than his sin itself. The second it is that refers directly to the sin, and not the first.

This double appeal we shall find every where in Scripture. Does man "thirst," he is bidden to come and drink of the living water; is he "laboring and heavy-laden," he is invited to find rest for his soul. This style of address clearly takes the ground of the first question. It is the heart not at rest here rather than the conscience roused. Where the latter is the case, however, and the sense of guilt presses on the soul, then there is a Christ of whom even His enemies testify that He receiveth sinners, and whose own words are that the "Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost." These are, as it were, God’s two arms thrown around men. Thus would He fain be every tie of interest draw them to Himself, - of self-interest when they are as yet incapable of any higher, any worthier motive. How precious is this witness to a love which finds all its inducement in itself - a love, not which God has, but which He is! How false an estimate do we make of it and of Him when we make Him just such another as ourselves, - when we think of His heart as needing to be won back to us, as if He had fallen from His own goodness, with our fall from innocence! How slow are we to credit Him when He speaks of the "great love wherewith He loves us, even when we are dead in sins"! How little we believe it, even when we have before our eyes "God, in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them"! Even when the awful cross, wherein man’s sin finds alone its perfect evidence and measurement in one, manifests a grace overflowing, abounding over it, - even then can he justify himself rather than God, and refuse the plainest and simplest testimony to sovereign goodness, which he has lost even the bare ability to conceive. In how many ways is God beseeching man to consider his own condition at least, if nothing else! In how many tongues is this "Adam, where art thou?" repeated to the present day! Every groan of a creation subject to vanity, whereof the whole frame-work is convulsed and out of joint, is such a tongue.

Herein is Wisdom crying in the streets, even where there is no speech and no word, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." This, man never does until divinely taught. "Wisdom is justified" only "of her children." And Adam does not yet approve himself as one of these. His confession of sin is rather an accusation of God - "The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." In patient majesty, God turns to the woman. She, more simply, but still excusing herself, pleads she was deceived. - "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." Then, without any further question, He proceeds to judgment, - judgment in which for the tempted mercy lies enfolded, and where, if the old creation find its end, there appears the beginning of that which alone fully claims the title of "The Creation of God." In the judgment of the serpent, we must remember first of all the essentially typical character of the language used. We have no reason to believe that Adam knew as yet the mystery of who the tempter was. "That old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan," was doubtless for him nothing more than the most subtle of the beasts of the field which the Lord God had made.

Herein, indeed, were divine wisdom and mercy shown, the tempter being not permitted to approach in angelic character, as one above man, but in bestial, as one below him; one indeed of those to which man as their lord had given names, and among which he had found no help, meet. How great was thus his shame when he listened to the deceiver! He had given up his divinely appointed supremacy in that moment. So in the judgment here it is all outwardly the mere serpent, where spiritually we discern a far deeper thing. "And the Lord God said unto the serpent, ‘Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed among all cattle, and among all beasts of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.’ "Thus the victory of evil is in reality the degradation of the victor: he is degraded necessarily by his own success.

How plainly is this an eternal principle, illustrated in every career of villany under the sun! By virtue of it, Satan will not be the highest in hell, and prince of it, as men have feigned, but lowest and most miserable of all the miserable there. "Dust shall be the serpent’s meat." "He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?" But there is still another way in which the serpent’s victory is his defeat: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel." That this last expression received its plainest fulfillment on the cross I need not insist upon. There Satan manifested himself prince of this world, able (so to speak) by his power over men to cast Christ out of it and put the Prince of life to death. But that victory was his eternal overthrow. "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out; and I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me". This is deliverance for Satan’s captives. It is not the restoration, however, of the old creation, nor of the first man. The seed of the woman is emphatically the "Second Man," another and a "last Adam," new Head of a new race, who find in Him their title as "Sons of God," as "born, not of blood (ie. naturally), nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." This is not the place indeed for the expansion of this, for here it is not expanded. We shall find the development of it further on. Only here it is noted, that not self-recovery, but a deliverer, is the need of man; and if God take up humanity itself whereby to effect deliverance, it must be the seed of the woman, the expression of feebleness and dependence, not of natural headship or of power. The first direct prophecy links together the first page of revelation with the last, for only there do we find the full completion of it, - the serpent’s head at last bruised. As a principle, the life of every saint in a world which "lieth in the wicked one" has illustrated and enforced it. In the next section of this book we shall return to look at this.

The judgment of the woman and the man now follow, but they have listened already to the voice of mercy - a mercy which can turn to blessing the hardship and sorrow, henceforth the discipline of life, and even the irrevocable doom of death itself. That Adam has been no inattentive listener, we may gather from his own next words, which are no very obscure intimation of the faith which has sprung up in his soul. "And Adam called his wife’s name Eve [life], because she was the mother of all living." The "woman which Thou gavest to be with me" is again "his wife," and he names her through whom death had come in, as the mother, not of the dying, but the living. Thus does his faith lay hold on God, - the faith of poor sinner surely, to whom divine mercy had come down without a thing in him to draw it out, save only the misery which spoke to the heart of infinite love. Like Abraham, afterward "he believed God," and while to the sentence he bows in submissive silence, the grace inclosed in the sentence opens his lips again. Beautifully are we permitted to see just this in Adam, a faith which left him a poor sinner still, to be justified, not by works, but freely of God’s grace, but still put him thus before God for justification. We are ready the more to apprehend and appreciate the significant action following: "Unto Adam also, and to his wife, did the Lord God make coats of skin, and clothed them."

Thus the shame of their nakedness is removed, and by God Himself, so that: they are fit for His presence; for the covering provided of Himself must needs be owned as competent by Himself. And we have only to consider for a moment to discern how competent it really was. Death provided this covering. These coats of skin owned the penalty as having come in, and those clothed with them found shelter for themselves in the death of another, and that the one upon whom it had come sinlessly through their own sin. How pregnant with instruction as to how still man’s nakedness is covered and he made fit for the presence of a righteous God! These skins were fitness, the witness of how God had maintained the righteous sentence of death, while removing that which was now his shame, and meeting the consequences of his sin. Our covering is far more, but it is such a witness also. Our righteousness is still the witness of God’s righteousness, - the once dead, now living One, who of God is made unto us righteousness, and in whom also we are made the righteousness of God. The antitype in every way transcends the type surely, yet very sweet and significant nevertheless is the first testimony of God to the Son; - a double testimony, first to the seed of the woman, the Saviour; and then, when faith has set its seal to this, a testimony to that work of atonement, whereby the righteousness of God is revealed in good news to man, and the believer is made that righteousness in Him. Not till the hand of God has so interfered for them are Adam and his wife sent forth out of the garden. If earth’s paradise has closed for them, heaven has already opened; and the tree of life, denied only as continuing the old creation, stretches forth for them its branches, loaded with its various fruit, "in the midst of the paradise," no longer of men, but "of God."
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