Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

tree; he either drawing his description from them, or using the same terms, and so confirming their correctness, whether as symbolical or real. They all describe their tree as planted by the river; and it is no forced construction to say, that both David and Jeremiah, by way of comparison, are making a reference to it; for the tree of life was the only tree whose leaf would not wither; the only tree which would not suffer from heat or drought; the only tree which was watered by living waters; and the Scriptures throughout, the Old and the New, speak in such wise of living waters as to make their application to the tree of life far other than inappropriate. I will extract but one passage, in present proof, from the Old Testament; and that is a very remarkable one in the Book of the prophet Zechariah, in the fourteenth chapter. In declaring the coming and the kingdom of Christ, he says, “ And it shall be in that day that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem.” I will extract two passages from the New Testament; either of them from the gospel of St. John; one from the fourth chapter, where Christ, in His conversation with the woman of Samaria, tells her, “ If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water;" which water He afterwards says should

a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” The other is from the seventh chapter, when, “ in the last day of the feast, He stood, and cried out, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

be 66

He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters. But this He spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive." These concurrent testimonies do satisfy us, that the expressions of both prophets, David and Jeremiah, have the intention I would advocate, and more especially since, on looking back to a preceding verse in the same chapter of Jeremiah, we see the wicked man likened unto “ the heath in the desert, not seeing when good cometh ; and inhabiting the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land, and not inhabited;" this description exactly agreeing with parts of Arabia, with the borders of the Dead and the Red Sea, tracts of country, from appearance and situation, well put in contrast with “ the garden of the Lord,” we may not doubt the design. Solomon, in his Book of Proverbs, likens wisdom and righteousness, and whatsoever is praiseworthy in man and acceptable to God, to “ tree of life.” And he does so, because this original tree of life did or was intended to maintain life; and because by those excellent qualities is life, in that they procure the favour of God, which is life now and the promise of everlasting life hereafter. He avers that “ wisdom is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her,”—that “ the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.” Our blessed Lord, while He does not in so direct terms make His comparison from the tree of life, does, nevertheless, so repeatedly make His comparison from a tree and its fruit, as to justify our suggestion that He drew it from the same source.

a

[ocr errors]

These instances will suffice to our seeing that there was an old and general conviction, that this tree was designed for the perpetual preservation of life, that by it man's body was to be maintained in immortality, and that it would have been so maintained, had he not forfeited his “ right” to it by disobedience. Powerful, awful, and extensive, is thus shewn us was its quality: it is enough to make us regard it with fear; to make us to suffer no thought concerning it to be harboured by us which has not a scriptural warrant. There was a mysterious influence in it; and, further than what the Scriptures have declared, we shall in vain seek to know: the same cherubim, and the same sword, which forbid our entering the garden of Eden, forbid more knowledge of this, its best, and most exalted, and most awful production

1 That these trees of life and knowledge were materiall trees, (though figures of the law and of the gospell,) it is not doubted by the most religious and learned writers: although the wits of men, which are so volatile, as nothing can fixe them, and so. slipperie, as nothing can fasten them, have in this also delivered to the world an imaginarie doctrine. The tree of life (say the Hebrews) hath a plurall construction, and is to be understood, lignum vitarum, the tree of lives, because the fruit thereof had a propertie, to preserve both the growing, sensitive, and rationall life of man; and not onely (but for Adam's transgression) had prolonged his owne dayes, but also given a dureful continuance to all his posteritie : and that, so long as a body compounded of elements could last. And, although it is hard to thinke that flesh and blood could be immortall, but that it must once perish and rot, by the unchanged law of God, imposed on his creatures,

Those mysteries, which God has shut up, cannot be penetrated by us; and it is unwise, to say the least of it, to endeavour to burst His bars. The tree of life, from every description, declaration, and teaching, that we have, we are not unauthorized in concluding, had the faculty of continuing life indefinitely; how, or by what means, we know not; that is and must be mystery; and it is shut up from our use—how, we know not; that is mystery too; and man was driven from it, and from the place in which it was planted, because it was not fit that a corrupt nature should be possessed of immortality; “ lest,” in his sinful state," he should put forth his hand, and

man (notwithstanding) should have enjoyed thereby a long, healthful, and ungrieved life : after which (according to the opinion of most divines) he should have been translated, as Enoch was. And as before the flood the dayes of men had the long measure of eight hundred or nine hundred yeeres; and, soone after the flood, of two hundred yeeres and upwards, even to five hundred : so, if Adam had not disobeyed God's first and easie commandment, the lives of men on earth might have continued double, treble, or quadruple to any of the longest times of the first age, as many learned men have conceived. Chrysostome, Rupertus, Tostatus, and others, were of beleefe, that (but for Adam's fall and transgression) Adam and his posteritie had been immortall. But such is the infinite wisdom of God, as he foresaw that the earth could not have contained mankind; or else, that millions of soules must have been ungenerated, and have had no being, if the first number, wherewith the earth was replenished, had. abode thereon for ever; and therefore that of Chrysostome must be understood of immortalitie of bodies, which should have been translated and glorified. But of what kind or species this tree was no man hath taken on him to teach.--RALEIGH,

take, and eat, and live for ever.” So far, in this particular instance, we are informed; but the gate of more knowledge is closed. It is the object of the inspired historian to give that information of the circumstances of man and of the world before the fall, which will enable and persuade us to love our duties; which will shew us what man once was, so far as we can receive it, and what is required of us that we may be restored to the favour, which, so long as he retained his innocence, he was in the enjoyment of. The tree of life was his highest privilege; it was the pledge of life; and its presence was the sign to him of his own innocence and of the favour of his Creator; and to us it is the symbol and the promise of what faith and obedience shall make us and raise us unto. The grand purpose of all revelation, is the performance of the will of God; and the end of that is everlasting life. He that looks to it with other expectation, desire, or purpose, will necessarily meet with disappointment and confusion. God's purpose is as fixed, as His Revelation is true; they must act, each one in harmony with the other; the one is given but for fulfilment of the other : it has essential respect to it; it is its minister, as all is God's will ; and surely God will not allow either knowledge or power, which shall not be entirely consistent with it, to have force or being; He will suffer nothing but what shall serve to its uses.

« ZurückWeiter »