« ZurückWeiter »
be well founded, in other parts of the earth. This is one, amongst the many proofs with which we are supplied, of the egregious and palpable errors into which an overweening conceit will carry men. Some, too, have allegorized these trees, as they have allegorized Paradise; but, in refutation, we may ask them, will they allegorize obedience and disobedience? will they allegorize life and death? The exact appearance of them, then, I presume, it is impossible we should know. They are called trees, or plants, of the garden; and the appellation is consistent with their place and purpose; but their reality must be the subject of revelation; and any inferences we may draw, as respecting them, must be drawn from the Scriptures. No other source, or pretended source, of information, will help us : all other sources will, assuredly, mislead us. It is not denied to us to make inquiry, provided it be bounded by proper limits, be directed by a proper spirit, and aimed towards a proper object. Those limits must be the Scriptures; that spirit must originate in an ingenuous desire to have a better knowledge of God's will; and that object must be the increase of faith and obedience. The subject is deeply awful. It is awful, as concerns both God aud ourselves; as concerns God, by whom the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge, were planted, to maintain life in and to prove man; and whose honour was lamentably wounded by man's failure in the proof;—as concerns man, whose first happiness was made to be dependent upon them; whose fall from life and happiness they remind of; and whose restoration is now dependent on a faith and obedience of the promise of which they are the symbols; who, looking back on the tree of life, knows that it was intended for his good; and, on the tree of knowledge, knows that from the violation of its sacredness has sprung all he has of evil. Let our inquiry, therefore, be conducted with humility, and by Scriptural rule; with a careful avoidance of whatever the Scriptures do not authorize; and, let the effect of it be, a better persuasion of the necessity, and a more fixed resolution, of a strict adherence in all things to the will of God. This is our sole legitimate end of inquiry; this is the sole method by which we can obtain satisfaction or benefit.
We will commence with the tree of life, the consideration of which will absorb our present limits.
In performance of our proposal, it will be our safest and most instructive course, first, to adduce what the Scriptures say of the tree of life in a direct sense, with a direct reference to it; and, secondly, by way of deduction and illustration, to bring forward such mention of it as is descriptive or comparative. By this means we may avoid error; for, our foundation will be the Holy Scriptures themselves, which are truth indefeasible.
The first notice we have of the tree of life is in the ninth verse of this the second chapter of Genesis, where it is coupled with the tree of knowledge of good and evil, being made to have co-equal existence and similar position with it. The garden had been described as having been planted, and the man as having been formed or put into it; and now its productions are immediately delivered to us. The general productions of the earth had been previously spoken of, in the fifth verse: this passage refers only to the garden of Eden: “And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” The next notice occurs in the twenty-second and the twenty-fourth verses of the following chapter, when God executed His sentence of expulsion against man: Behold, the man is become as one of us to know good and evil : and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever. And He placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” The other occurrences of the mention of this tree, of the like character, are to be found in the book of the Revelation of St. John, in the second and the twenty-second chapters, at the seventh verse of the former, and at the second and the fourteenth of the latter: “ To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God. “In the midst of the street of it," of the river of the water of life, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations—Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” These are the only direct notices of the tree of life, which the Scriptures afford us; but they, few and brief as they are, give every instruction which can be serviceable. We are, in the first place, informed, that it was planted by God Himself, in the middle of Paradise. There was, in its original intention, an use in it for Man's benefit, or it would not have been put into such a place. What this use was, is made known to us by the words of God on the expulsion, and by the great care which was had in preventing any application to it by him who had offended, and so become unworthy of its advantages" lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever—and He placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword that turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” Indeed, the very denomination of “ tree of life” would signify to us that there was in it a faculty of either giving or preserving life. It had not the faculty of giving life, life having already, before man was put into paradise, been given by the Creator from whom alone the original principle could have been derived. It might, as an instrument of His, be preservative of life; and, that it was but an instrument of His, is evident, as well from the fact of its having been shut up by Him, as from the fact of its having been planted by Him. In either case, His perfect
control is visible, visible in creative and in preventive power. It appears from hence, that there was a very extraordinary virtue in this tree, the virtue of preserving life in interminable duration ; and that man was driven from Paradise, that his corrupt life might not be perpetuated. His visible parts, being material and compound, requiring nourishment for the holding of them together, ordinary
food was to a certain extent sufficient for that purpose; but, the very idea of a material substance infers perishability, and is itself argument, that, to preserve or maintain undissolved that of which it consists, there must be a constant renewal. This is a law of nature, or, more properly to speak, a provision of God; we, therefore, seem justified in believing that the tree of life had a faculty granted to it by the Creator of keeping in constant renewal the supports of man's otherwise perishable frame. There is nothing unreasonable or unscriptural in this : there is nothing, I say, contrary to any rule of reason; there is nothing, contrary to any declaration of the Scriptures, that the same God, who had given to ordinary food the faculty of preserving life for a lesser term, should have given it to this for the greater. It is an equal miracle that bread should uphold the animal being through seventy or eighty years, as that the produce of this tree should have been capable of upholding it to perpetuity. The one was as easy to God as the other. What is time in His sight? “A thousand years are but as yesterday”-and—“one day is as a thousand years,” If