|« Prev||Chapter VII. The Fall.||Next »|
The Scriptural Account.
The Scriptural account of the Fall, as given in the look of Genesis, is, That God placed Adam in “the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 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 Now the serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 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. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened; and ye shall be as gods (as God), knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make wise; she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.”
The consequences of this act of disobedience were, (1.) An immediate sense of guilt and shame. (2.) The desire and effort to hide themselves from the face of God. (3.) The denunciation and immediate execution of the righteous judgment of God upon the serpent, upon the man, and upon the woman. (4.) Expulsion from the garden of Eden and prohibition of access to the Tree of Life.
That this account of the probation and fall of man is neither an allegory nor a myth, but a true history, is evident, (1.) From internal evidence. When contrasted with the mythological accounts of the creation and origin of man as found in the records of early heathen nations, whether Oriental, Grecian, or Etruscan, the difference 124is at once apparent. The latter are evidently the product of rude speculation, the Scriptural account is simple, intelligible, and pregnant with the highest truths. (2.) From the fact not only that it is presented as a matter of history in a book which all Christians recognize as of divine authority, but that it also forms an integral part of the book of Genesis, which is confessedly historical. It is the first of the ten divisions into which that book, in its internal structure, is divided, and belongs essentially to its plan. (3.) It is no only an essential part of the book of Genesis, but it is also an essential part of Scriptural history as a whole, which treats of the origin, apostasy, and development of the human race, as connected with the plan of redemption. (4.) We accordingly find that both in the Old and New Testaments the facts here recorded are assumed, and referred to as matters of history. (5.) And finally, these facts underlie the whole doctrinal system revealed in the Scriptures Our Lord and his Apostles refer to them not only as true, but as furnishing the ground of all the subsequent revelations and dispensations of God. It was because Satan tempted man and led him into disobedience that he became the head of the kingdom of darkness; whose power Christ came to destroy, and from whose dominion he redeemed his people. It was because we died in Adam that we must be made alive in Christ. So that the Church universal has felt bound to receive the record of Adam's temptation and fall as a true historical account.
There are many who, while admitting the historical character of this account, still regard it as in a great measure figurative. They understand it as a statement not so much of external events as of an internal process of thought; explaining how it was that Eve came to eat of the forbidden tree and to induce Adam to join in her transgression. They do not admit that a serpent was the tempter, or that he spoke to Eve, but assume that she was attracted by the beauty of the forbidden object, and began to question in her own mind either the fact or the justice of the prohibition. But there is not only no valid reason for departing from the literal interpretation of the passage, but that interpretation is supported by the authority of time writers of the New Testament. They recognize the serpent as present, and as the agent in the temptation and fall of our first parents.
The Tree of Life.
According to the sacred narrative, there were two trees standing side by side in the garden of Eden which had a peculiar symbolical 125or sacramental character. The one was called the Tree of Life, the other the Tree of Knowledge. The former was the symbol of life, and its fruit was not to be eaten except on the condition of man's retaining his integrity. Whether the fruit of that tree had inherent virtue to impart life, i.e., to sustain the body of man in its youthful vigour and beauty, or gradually to refine it until it should become like to what the glorified body of Christ now is, or whether the connection between eating its fruit and immortality was simply conventional and sacramental, we cannot determine. It is enough to know that partaking of that tree secured in some way the enjoyment of eternal life. That this was the fact is plain, not only because man after his transgression was driven from paradise “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” (Gen. iii. 22); but also because Christ is called the Tree of Life. He is so called because that tree was typical of Him, and the analogy is, that as He is the source of life, spiritual and eternal, to his people, so that tree was appointed to be the source of life to the first parents of our race and to all their descendants, had they not rebelled against God. Our Lord promises (Rev. ii. 7) to give to them who overcome, to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God. In heaven there is said (Rev. xxii. 2) to be a tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations; and again (verse 14), “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” The symbolical and typical import of the tree of life is thus clear. As paradise was the type of heaven, so the tree which would have secured immortal life to obedient Adam in that terrestrial paradise is the type of Him who is the source of spiritual and eternal life to his people in the paradise above.
The Tree of Knowledge.
The nature and significancy of the tree of knowledge of good and evil are not so clear. By the tree of knowledge, indeed, it is altogether probable, we are to understand a tree the fruit of which would impart knowledge. This may be inferred, (1.) From analogy As the tree of life sustained or imparted life, so the tree of knowledge was appointed to communicate knowledge. (2.) From the suggestion of the tempter, who assured the woman that eating of the fruit of that tree would open her eyes. (3.) She so understood the designation, for she regarded the tree as desirable to render wise. ( 4.) The effect of eating of the forbidden fruit was that the eyes 126of the transgressors were opened. And (5.), in the twenty-second verse, we read that God said of fallen man, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” Unless this be understood ironically, which in this connection seems altogether unnatural, it must mean that Adam had, by eating the forbidden fruit, attained a knowledge in some respects analogous to the knowledge of God, however different in its nature and effects. This, therefore, seems plain from the whole narrative, that the tree of knowledge was a tree the fruit of which imparted knowledge. Not indeed from any inherent virtue, it may be, in the tree itself, but from the appointment of God. It is not necessary to suppose that the forbidden fruit had the power to corrupt either the corporeal or moral nature of man, and thus produce the experimental knowledge of good and evil. All that the text requires is that knowledge followed the eating of that fruit.
The words “good and evil” in this connection admit of three interpretations. In the first place, in Scripture, the ignorance of infancy is sometimes expressed by saying that a child cannot tell its right hand from its left; sometimes by saying, that he cannot discern between the evil and the good. Thus in Deut. i. 39, it is said, “Your children . . . had no knowledge between good and evil,” and in Is. vii. 16, “Before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good.” On the other hand maturity, whether in intellectual or spiritual knowledge, is expressed by saying that one has power to distinguish between good and evil. Thus the perfect or mature believer has his “senses exercised to discern both good and evil,” Heb. v. 14. Agreeably to the analogy of these passages, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, is simply the tree of knowledge. The one expression is fully equivalent to the other. This interpretation relieves the passage of many difficulties. It is sustained also by the language of Eve, who said it was a tree desirable to make wise. Before he sinned, Adam had the ignorance of happiness and innocence. The happy do not know what sorrow is, and the innocent do not know what sin is. When he ate of the forbidden tree he attained a knowledge he never had before. But, in the second place the words, “good and evil” may be taken in a moral sense. If this is so, the meaning cannot be that the fruit of that tree was to lead Adam to a knowledge of the distinction between right and wrong, and thus awaken his dormant moral nature. That knowledge he must have had from the beginning, and was a good not to be prohibited. Some suppose that by the knowledge of good and evil is meant the knowledge of what things 127are good and what are evil. This is a point determined for us by the revealed will of God. Whatever He commands is good, and what. ever He forbids is evil. The question is determined by authority. We cannot answer it from the nature of things, nor by considerations of expediency. Instead of submitting to the authority or Jew of God as the rule of duty, it is assumed that Adam aspired to know for himself what was good and what evil. It was emancipation from the trammels of authority that he sought. To this however, it may be objected that this was not the knowledge which he attained by eating the forbidden fruit. He was told that his eyed should be opened, that he should know good and evil; and his eyes were opened; the promised knowledge was attained. That knowledge, however, was not the ability to determine for himself between right and wrong. He had less of that knowledge after than before his fall. In the third place, “good and evil” may be taken in a physical sense, for happiness and misery. Eating of the forbidden tree was to determine the question of Adam's being happy or miserable. It led to an experimental knowledge of the difference. God knew the nature and effects of evil from his omniscience. Adam could know them only from experience, and that knowledge he gained when he sinned. Whichever of these particular interpretations be adopted, they all are included in the general statement that the tree of knowledge gave Adam a knowledge which he had not before; he came to an experimental knowledge of the difference between good and evil.
It may be inferred from the narrative, that Adam was present with Eve during the temptation. In Gen. iii. 6, it is said the woman gave of the fruit of the tree to her husband who was “with her.” He was therefore a party to the whole transaction. When it is said that a serpent addressed Eve, we are bound to take the words in their literal sense. The serpent is neither a figurative designation of Satan; nor did Satan assume the form of a serpent. A real serpent was the agent of the temptation, as it is plain from what is said of the natural characteristics of the serpent in the first verse of the chapter, and from the curse pronounced upon the animal itself, and the enmity which was declared should subsist between it and man through all time. But that Satan was the real tempter, and that he used the serpent merely as his organ or instrument, is evident, — (1.) From the nature of the transaction. What is here attributed to the serpent far transcends the power of any irrational 128creature. The serpent maybe the most subtile of all the beasts of the field, but he has not the high intellectual faculties which the tempter here displays. (2.) In the New Testament it is both directly asserted, and in various forms assumed, that Satan seduced our first parents into sin. In Rev. xii. 9, it is said, “The great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.” And in xx. 2, “He laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan.” In 2 Cor. xi. 3, Paul says, “I fear lest . . . . as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so also your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” But that by the serpent he understood Satan, is plain from v. 14, where he speaks of Satan as the great deceiver; and what is said in Rom. xvi. 20, “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet,” is in obvious allusion to Gen. iii. 15. In John viii. 44, our Lord calls the devil a murderer from the beginning, and the father of lies, because through him sin and death were introduced into the world. Such was also the faith of the Jewish Church. In the Book of Wisdom ii. 24, it is said, that “Through the envy of Satan came death into the world.” In the later Jewish writings this idea is often presented.133133See Eisenmenger, Endecktes Judenthum, edit. Königsberg, 1711; I. p. 822.
As to the serpent's speaking there is no more difficulty than in the utterance of articulate words from Sinai, or the sounding of a voice from heaven at the baptism of our Lord, or in the speaking of Balaam's ass. The words uttered were produced by the power of Satan, and of such effects produced by angelic beings good and evil there are numerous instances in the Bible.
The Nature of the Temptation.
The first address of the tempter to Eve was designed to awaken distrust in the goodness of God, and doubt as to the truth of the prohibition. “Hath God indeed said, ye shall net eat of every tree of the garden?” or, rather, as the words probably mean, “Has God said, ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?” The next address was a direct assault upon her faith. “Ye shall not surely die;” but on the contrary, become as God himself in knowledge. To this temptation she yielded, and Adam joined in the transgression. From this account it appears that doubt, unbelief, and pride were the principles which led to this fatal act of disobedience. Eve doubted God's goodness; she disbelieved his threatening; she aspired after forbidden knowledge.129
The Effects of the First Sin.
The effects of sin upon our first parents themselves, were, (1.) Shame, a sense of degradation and pollution. (2.) Dread of the displeasure of God; or, a sense of guilt, and the consequent desire to hide from his presence. These effects were unavoidable. They prove the loss not only of innocence but of original righteousness, and with it of the favour and fellowship of God. The state therefore to which Adam was reduced by his disobedience, so far as his subjective condition is concerned, was analogous to that of the fallen angels. He was entirely and absolutely ruined. It is said that no man becomes thoroughly depraved by one transgression. In one sense this is true. But one transgression by incurring the wrath and curse of God and the loss of fellowship with Him, as effectually involves spiritual death, as one perforation of the heart causes the death of the body; or one puncture of the eyes involves us in perpetual darkness. The other forms of evil consequent on Adam's disobedience were merely subordinate. They were but the expressions of the divine displeasure and the consequences of that spiritual death in which the threatened penalty essentially consisted.130
|« Prev||Chapter VII. The Fall.||Next »|