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He could grant to any instrument or agent the faculty of maintaining life for one day, why not for one year ? and, if for one year, why not for a thousand? and, if so, why not to perpetuity? Where is the limit to be fixed ? It is, in respect of it, as of the body itself. The body is now adapted to a principle of continuance by the space of threescore years and ten. There were times, when it continued many hundred years; and wherefore was it, but because it was adapted by the Creator to that principle? Previously, it was adapted to the principle, by the means of the fruit of this tree, of unending existence. When access to the tree was barred, the power of perpetuity ceased; and the existence of the body was gradually reduced to its present comparatively short term.
“ The tree of life,” says the commentator', was “so called, because there was a virtue in it, as several of the ancient fathers think, not only to repair the animal spirits, as other nourishment doth ; but also to preserve and maintain them, and all the organs of the body, in the same equal temper and state, wherein they were created, without any decay : until man should have been fit to be translated into another world.” This seems agreeable to the case. Man's continuance in Paradise depended on condition : while he continued there, he was in no danger of dissolution, or death ; and God says, that, if he should eat of the fruit of the tree of life,
| Bishop Patrick.
he would live for ever!. What conclusion can we draw, but that it was by the tree of life He intended, had man not sinned, that he should live? If we now refer to the passages in the Revelation of St. John, we shall see this interpretation to be confirmed. The first of them promises “to him that overcometh” the privilege of “eating of the tree of life;" the
· The prohibition given to Adam concerning the not eating of the tree of knowledge, is ushered in (which very few interpreters take an exact notice of) with this express donation or grant of God, that he might freely eat of all the rest of the trees of Paradise, the tree of life not excepted. Now it is certain the tree of life was so called, because it was either a sacrament and divine sign, or else a natural means of immortality ; that is, because he that should have used it, would, (either by the natural virtue of the tree itself continually repairing the decays of nature, or else by the power of God) have lived for ever, as God himself plainly assures us, Gen. iii. 22, 23, 24. So that the sense of this whole legislation to Adam is apparently this : If thou shalt obey my command in not eating of the tree of knowledge, thou mayest continue in Paradise, and freely enjoy all the other delights thereof, not being debarred from the tree of life itself, which thou mayest eat of, and live for ever : but if thou transgress this my commandment, in the eating of the tree of knowledge, thou shalt certainly die.—The very commination itself, in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die, manifestly implies a promise. This consequence (whatever some idle wits have fancied to the contrary) is most firm : God threateneth death to man, if he eat of the forbidden fruit; therefore He promiseth life if he do not eat. For how insignificant would have been the threatening of death, to man's eating of the forbidden fruit, if he should certainly and necessarily have died, whether he had eaten or not!
second states that “the leaves" of it were “ for the healing of the nations,” whose disease we know to have been death; and the third, which is very remarkable in the terms of it, and singularly apposite to our purpose, asserts that “they that do God's commandments have a right to the tree of life.” If Adam had continued in obedience, he would have retained his “right to the tree of life,” his continuance in Paradise being of compact, to which compact there were two parties, God and himself; and, although his creation and his position in Paradise were of the free grace of God, yet, as God had vouchsafed to enter into covenant or compact with him, he may be truly said, so long as he fulfilled his part, to have had “a right” to that which was given or promised to fulfilment. This passage and those others do, therefore, teach us, that “they that do God's commandments have a right” to be placed in the state in which Adam stood before his transgression, which state was life in Paradise; and which life was by the eating of the fruit of the tree of life: we, consequently, come to the result, that the tree of life was that by which the life of man was ordained by the Creator to have a perpetual continuance. The Gospel pronounces that the obedient under it shall enter into life; they being under a new covenant, confirmed by the promise of God: Life was covenanted to obedience in Paradise : life is covenanted to obedience in Christ: and the evangelist of the Revelation says that the life under the Gospelcovenant shall be had by eating of the tree of life, —
a symbolical expression, certainly; but it could have had no symbolical meaning, if the original of it had not been real. This gives us the quality of the tree, to the extent we can receive it; and it gives it, to shew what that is which it behoves us to seek after, even life; and the way, by which the state or con(lition of life is brought to our understanding, is by the medium of this tree. So will a sincere recourse to the Scriptures open to us all it is desirable we should know. These few passages explain more than the most laborious researches of the wisest men, if they can be called wise men whose wisdom excludes Scriptural instruction as an inviolable principle, that have ever lived, can demonstrate to us, who have not undeviatingly depended on the Scriptures for their rules and explanations. The tree of life was a perpetual source of immortality; it was that which grew but in Paradise ; that which could grow no where else; no other soil was suited to it; no other climate was genial : and it was that which God would permit the innocent only to enjoy : we do not enjoy it now, because we are not innocent; and we can only be made fit for its enjoyment by the merits of Him, whose redeeming love hath, to the obedient, blotted out the transgression of Adam'.
The report of this tree was also brought to the ancient poets : for as from the indigested matter of chaos, Hesiodus, Homer, Ovid, and others, steale the invention of the created world ; so from the garden of Paradise they took the platforme of the orchard of Alcinous, and another of the Hesperides ; and from the tree of
We will now apply to some prominent passages of the Scriptures, which, as descriptive, or comparative, may aid in the illustration of this subject. David, in his first Psalm, and Jeremiah, in the seventeenth chapter of his prophecy, liken the godly, in very similar language, to a tree; and in such manner that we can hardly but understand them to have had in their view the tree of life. Says the former, “ He shall be like a tree, planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." It is the language of the latter, “ He shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” These descriptions are accordant with those of St. John in the Revelation; and, although I would not prove an earlier by a later mode of expression, yet, as St. John is speaking in words which would be, to those conversant with the Scriptures, of ready apprehension; and, as his description of the tree of life, he placing it by the river, would agree with general opinion; he, too, speaking of its fruit and its leaves,
-we may assume that he gives us authority for using those former descriptions as intended for this
life, their nectar, and ambrosia ; for nectar, according to Suidas, signifieth making young, and ambrosia, immortalitie; and therefore said to be the meate and drink of the gods.—RALEIGH,