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CHAPTER III.

GENESIS.

MAN, AND WHAT HE IS BY NATURE

Keynote: Rom. iii. 9-19

IN the book of Genesis we have given to us, as I have suggested, the outcome of Adam, or man as he is by nature. We see here the development of human nature in many different forms of life, and its continual failure. This book gives us in type the first great lesson that every soul has to learn, and that is the lesson of its own helplessness. It shows us man tried under many different circumstances, and failing in every one, until finally the sad but sure transition is made from the garden of Eden into the bondage in Egypt.

Not that there are no individual examples of faithfulness and its reward, given us in this book, but the story of man as man, developed here, is one of repeated and most grievous failure. It has always seemed to me to be a very vivid picture of the experience of the awakened soul, seeking to make itself what it ought to be, by continually repeated efforts of its own and ending at last by finding itself in apparently hopeless Egyptian bondage. We all of us doubtless know something of this experimentally. 30 We know what it is to have set ourselves to the work of our own reformation, to have been continually turning over a “new leaf” on our birth-days, or at New Year's time, thinking always that each renewed effort would surely be successful, and laying the blame of every failure on some fault in our circumstances or surroundings, believing that, if these were but more favorable, all would be easy and sure. And we remember well, some of us at least, the final and hopeless disappointment when we discovered, beyond a shadow of doubt, that we were utterly helpless, and then the joy that came, when in our helplessness we threw ourselves upon the mercy of God, and found in Christ the redemption our souls had so long sought for in vain.

Of all this the books of Genesis and Exodus form a wonderful picture.

The story of man's first trial and its failure, is given us in Gen. i. ii. and iii. He was created by God in innocence and purity, and was placed in the garden of Eden under the most favorable possible circumstances; possessing a nature inclined towards righteousness, and with every surrounding that could help to establish him therein. And yet in spite of it all, he failed most grievously, breaking the one only law that God had given to control him, and making it necessary for his own good, that he should be driven out from his home in the beautiful garden, lest he should eat of the tree of life and live on forever in the fallen and sinful condition to which he bad brought himself. (iii. 22-24).

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In this trial and failure the whole human race was involved, and all were taught the lesson, if they could but have learned it, that man as he is by nature must always fail, and that God alone can make him stand; and therefore this very fall was the occasion of the display of God's infinite grace provided to meet it, for at once the promise is made of a Deliverer, who should deliver the very race, whose destiny He was to share. Had man fully learned here the lesson of his own helplessness, who can say that this Deliverer would not have come at once? But much was yet unlearned, and the human race had many sad experiences of failure to pass through, before the “fulness of time” could come, when He would be revealed.

Man's second trial was made outside the garden, when he was, as it were, left to himself, without law or restraint. He might perhaps have said of his first trial, “I failed because of that one law. Let me try now a life without law, and no doubt my righteousness will assert itself.” But his failure this time was even worse than at first, so that we read vi. 5, 6, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually, and it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart.” And the result was that He destroyed man from the face of the earth (vi. vii.), leaving alive only one family, whose head, Noah, was “a just man and perfect in his generations,” and who, it is said, “walked with God.”

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With this perfect man a third trial was made, upon a renewed earth, with all the evil surroundings and influences removed. And lest man might say that his last failure had arisen from the absence of any law to restrain him, a law was now given against the one especial sin that had proved his latest ruin--the sin of violence. ix. 5, 6: “And surely your blood of your lives will I require: at the hand of every beast will I require it: and at the hand of man, at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whosoever sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”

Moreover, God established with him now a covenant of promise, which secured him from any fear of a future destruction, such as had just taken place; and the human race, as it were, turned over a new leaf, and made a fresh start. But the end of this trial, like that of all the others, was a grievous failure. Men conceived the idea of climbing up to Heaven by a tower of their own building, and God, to save them from a worse failure, was compelled to confound their language, and to scatter them abroad “upon the face of all the earth.” xi. 1-9.

The call of Abraham came next. God chose a man out of these scattered nations, and called him to a walk of separation to Himself. xii. 1. “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house unto a land that I will shew thee.” It is as though man might have 33 said then, as many have said since, that it was hopeless to expect him to be righteous, when in association with his fellow-men, and that a life of separation was his only chance; and God gave him that chance. He chose one family and made them His peculiar people, separating them from all the nations round about them, and causing them to dwell apart in tents, and to be “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” But even under these favored circumstances, human nature proved itself to be the same, and disappointing failure was again the end. God's peculiar people became hopeless bondsmen in the land of His enemies, and the book that began with man in the garden of Eden, ends with man in Egyptian bondage.

Such to my mind is one of the chief lessons of the book of Genesis -- man's efforts and their inevitable failure. And such is the experience. sooner or later, of every human soul. We all have to learn this lesson before we can come to the book of Redemption. The natural thought of the heart of man invariably is, that we can live up to our ideal, and make ourselves what we ought to be, if only we try hard enough, or are placed in sufficiently favorable circumstances. And we spend months, and it may be years of our lives, in turning over new leaves, and making fresh starts, thinking each time that we have now at last found the secret of success, and attributing our failures, not to any fault in ourselves, but always to the faults in our circumstances and surroundings. Until at last, after countless failures, we discover 34 the secret of our own helplessness, and see that we are in truth bound hand and foot in a hopeless bondage; and then to us, as to Israel, comes the glad story of God's redemption, and our Exodus from Egypt takes place.

The New Testament doctrinal counterpart to this book is to be found, I think, in Romans i., ii. and iii. 1-20, where man's hopeless and undone condition by nature is declared to us, summed up with a description of our bondage in these words, “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” This must be known before redemption can be declared. “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick;” and the Lord Jesus came not to call “the righteous but sinners to repentance.” It is only the sinner that stands in the Saviour's path. It is the lost sheep whom the shepherd goes out to seek. It is in our weakness alone that His strength can be made perfect.

Dear readers, have you learned this lesson? Have you gone through the sad experience of this book, and are you ready to embrace with joy the story of God's redemption which will be next unfolded to you? Or are you still dwelling in the picture I have tried to draw, seeking to effect your own redemption by your efforts and resolutions, and fondly hoping to turn over at last the final new leaf which shall contain nothing but a record of righteousness? Are you in short trying to save yourselves, or are you letting Christ save you? Only your own hearts can answer these questions, and I pray 35 for your souls' sakes, that they may be honestly and speedily answered.

Throughout the story of general failure given us in this book, are mingled, however, as always in God's records, most blessed instances of individual faithfulness, which show us in beautiful pictures, the Divine ways with souls that really trust Him, and follow Him whithersoever He leadeth. In the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, we have given to us, I think, different aspects of the Christian life. Abraham shows us the life of faith; Isaac the life of sonship and liberty; Jacob the life of legal service and bondage; and Joseph the resurrection life of victory.

Abraham's life is a wonderful illustration of the text, “The just shall live by faith.” So eminent was he in this, that he is called in the New Testament “the father of the faithful,” and is cited continually as the sample and pattern of faith. “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. * * * By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only-begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able 36 to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” Heb. xi. 8, 9, 10, 17, 18, 19.

Isaac's life as the son and heir of his father, pictures before us the Christian's life as the son and heir of God. “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son: and if a son then an heir of God through Christ.” Of Isaac we read that his father gave unto him “all that he had.” Gen. xxiv. 36. And of our portion as children of God, we are told that our Father “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ;” and that all things are ours, for we are Christ's, and Christ is God's. The birth of Isaac was by promise, and his life throughout was a life of happy ease in his father's house, without care and without responsibility, his ways all marked out for him, and all things provided. He took no thought for the morrow, for his father took thought for him. He needed to carry no cares, for his father carried them. He had but to “lift up his eyes “and see, and behold all that he needed was brought to him by the arrangements of his father's love, Gen. xxi. 63-67. And so we, if we take our rightful place as children in the house of our Father, may “go in and out” in the happy freedom of childhood, “careful for nothing,” because our Father cares for us, with all our steps directed, and our paths marked out, and all our wants provided for. Our souls shall then truly “dwell at ease,” and we shall know what it is to be “followers of God as dear children,” with the unquestioning obedience and simple faith of childhood. And then, and not until then, can 37 we understand the depth of meaning in our Lord's words, when the question was asked of Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?” and He answered by calling a little child and setting him in the midst of them, and saying, “Verily, I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.” Matt. xviii. 1-4.

Jacob is a type of the life of legal service and bondage. He illustrates, I think, the error against which we are warned in the Epistle to the Galatians, of seeking to gain by our own works that which is freely promised us in Christ. Jacob managed in order to obtain the blessing which God's promise had secured to him. (Comp. Gen. xxv. 23 with xxvii.) The result was exile from his father's house, (xvii. 43), and a life of hard service in a distant country. The position of a son was exchanged for the position of a servant and bondage took the place of liberty. I do not mean that Jacob ceased to be a son, only that he lost the son's place and privileges in the father's house, and, though still a son, was obliged to work for himself as a servant in the house of a stranger. The blessings which came to Isaac as the gifts of his father's love, came to Jacob as the results of his own wearisome labor. Isaac had but to lift up his eyes and see, and behold his wife came to him, provided by his father's care, while Jacob worked 38 seven years for his wife, and even then received her sister in her stead, and was obliged to work seven other years in order to win her at last. Gen. xxix. 16-28. Isaac's flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and men-servants, and maid-servants, and camels and asses, came to him as the heir of his father, while Jacob says of his possessions, “This twenty years have I been with thee; thy ewes and thy she-goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten. That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes. Thus have I been twenty years in thy house: I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times.” Gen. xxxi. 38-41.

Throughout Jacob's whole life management took the place of trust, as it does in the life of many a Christian, and yet he was forced to confess, as finally all such legal Christians will also be, that it was not his own labor that had brought him prosperity, but only that God had been with him and blessed him; for he said to Laban, after recounting all his wearisome years of toil, “Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty.” Gen. xxxi. 42. The lesson, however, does not seem to have been fully learned until 39 that night on his homeward journey, when “there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day,” and he was lamed, so that he could resist and manage no longer, but was forced to go halting upon his thigh all the rest of his life. And then, in his weakness, his name was at last changed from Jacob, a supplanter, to Israel, a prince of God, for said he, “as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” Gen. xxxii. 24-31. Jacob conquered at last by his weakness, and we too must learn that our victory can only come when God's “strength is made perfect” in our utter weakness.

Joseph's life is, I think, a type of the resurrection-life of the believer, that life which is set before us in Rom. vi. 4: “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

It is a life which, from the first, dreams of victory and rule over the things of time and sense, and which attains this rule through suffering. In a dream God revealed Joseph's future kingship to him, Gen. xxxvii. but his brethren did not believe it, and hated him for his pretensions. “Art thou greater than our father Jacob?” they asked; and they said of him scornfully, “Behold this dreamer cometh!” Souls that live near to God can receive more of the heavenly mysteries than others, and for this they will be called “mystics,” “dreamers,” and not even their brethren can understand them.

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But the time of Joseph's exaltation did not come at once. The road to it lay through the pit, and through slavery, and imprisonment in Egypt. Self must die before the soul can reign unhindered. We must lose our life in order to find it. Through emptying to fulness, through abasement to exaltation, is always God's order.

In his wonderful book on the Types of Genesis,11“The Types of Genesis briefly considered as revealing the development of human nature,” by Andrew Jukes. Longmans, Green & Co., London. Jukes thus expresses it: “We ask the Lord that we may know the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. He draws us by His Spirit thus to pray. A dream of power over self and sin flits before our inward man. We think a few short stages will bring us to the end, that His love who has promised, will quickly give us the victory. Instead of this we discover fresh evil, and new forms of bondage. We seem to ourselves it may be, thrust into the pit or sold into hopeless slavery. We sink lower and lower. False accusations are made against us, and we know what it is to be 'reckoned with the transgressors;' and even to be called, 'Beelzebub,' with our Master. We are wronged, misrepresented, punished, cast out. Until at last our souls imprisoned, as it were, within walls of granite, are brought to the end of self, and the full deliverance comes. This discipline will be, I believe, both inward and outward. Our friends, as well as ourselves, will think that all is lost, and will leave us alone, perhaps, in our captivity. But could we hear the Lord 41 speak, He would tell us that all was well, that this discipline is really indispensable, and that these very trials are the chariots appointed by Him to carry our souls to the place of exaltation and triumph. And the believer that truly trusts, recognizes this, and saying continually to each thing, Thy will be done, reigns, as Joseph did, triumphant over every stage.” See Gen. xxxix. 1-6, and 20-23.

Delayed for thirteen years, the dreamed-of exaltation came at last, (xli. 38-44), and Joseph became ruler over the land of Egypt. The soul that suffers shall also reign. The things of time and sense shall be put under our feet, and we shall walk conquerors through the very country, where before we have been slaves and prisoners.

Mere faith cannot do this. Joseph reigns where Abraham failed. Neither can the Spirit of Sonship alone accomplish this victory. Isaac was content to rest at home in the enjoyment of all the good things of his father's house. To Jacob, Egypt was only a place of wearisome toil and sorrowful exile. The resurrection-life alone can walk through the world a triumphant conqueror. It can be in it, as Jesus was, a royal King over all its allurements and all its temptations. It can be “more than conqueror” through Him, and can set its feet on the neck of its enemies.

Surely we know something of this. We have seen lives, lived it may be in the midst of the world's grandeur, or surrounded by its blackest sinfulness, that have 42 been untouched by either, and have walked victoriously through all. We have wondered at it. Could we have read the inner history of such, sure I am that they would have told us that it had been by the way of in- ward death and of outward loss they had been brought, and that their path, like Joseph's, had been through emptying to fulness, and through abasement to exaltation.

Such are some of the lessons taught me out of this wonderful book, which has been justly called the “seed plot” of the Bible. Lessons of failure on the one hand, where nature reigns, and of grand success on the other, where God is permitted to be King. Teaching thus, even in its first chapter, the lesson of the whole Book, that we are nothing and Christ is all.

Dear reader, may I ask thee to pause here, and before thou shalt read another chapter, settle the question as to whether thou hast really learned this lesson. Because, until it is learned, no further progress of the soul is possible. We have started out together, I trust, to go through our blessed Book not only intellectually but experimentally also, and this is our first step, upon which all the rest depend. In God's pathway no one can walk but the weak and the helpless. Into His kingdom none can enter but the children and the foolish ones. His strength is made perfect always and only in our weakness.

And this means a real weakness, not a theoretical 43 one, and a real and actual foolishness and helplessness. It means, dear reader, that thou must so come to the end of thyself and of thy own resources, as not to know what to do next, nor where to turn. That thou must be in utter despair as to any possibility of helping thyself in any way whatever, and must come to the Lord as a poor, lost, undone sinner, with no claim upon His mercy but thy utter need.

And if in the past there has lurked in thy soul any secret thought or dream of making thyself good enough for God to save, give it all up now and forever, and out of thy hopeless slavery cry to Him, as we shall see Israel doing in our next chapter, and thy Exodus will come as speedily as did theirs.


Texts illustrating man's lost and undone condition by nature:  Rom. iii. 9-19; with Ps. xiv. 1-4, and Ps. liii. 1-4Rom. v. 12; viii. 7, 8Is. liii. 6Eph. ii. 1-3John viii. 23, 41-44Gal. iii. 22Eph. ii. 11, 12Jas. iv. 1-5Eccl. vii. 202 Chron. vi. 361 John i. 8, 10Jas. iii. 2;  Prov. xx 9;  Job. ix. 30, 31Jer. ii. 22Col. iii. 5-7.


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