« ZurückWeiter »
point, as we are not discussing the event of the Fall, to which the observation, if more extended, would necessarily lead. I have been obliged to make so much reference to it, because the threat, or denunciation, of death, is essentially connected with the death itself; and I could explain the meaning of the denunciation of death but by shewing what death afterwards was. The knowledge of good and evil, we are, therefore, to infer, placed man in actual sin; sin placed him in death ; and it placed him in death by effecting his removal from the ordained means of life; for, God says, that, although he was in a state of sin, and notwithstanding his nature had become corrupt, yet, if he were permitted to remain by the tree of life, he would “eat, and live for ever.”
The prohibition was delivered to both the man and the woman, though the account of the particular formation of the woman is given after the statement of it. This chapter, we must remember, as has been before remarked, is a recapitulation of the works of creation, in some instances more minute than the first account had been; and, in the history of the garden of Eden, which had been made or formed on the third day, is related all that concerned it; of that concernment the tree of knowledge, with its prohibition, composed a very important portion. Besides, in the third chapter, Eve acknowledges, in her temptation by the serpent, that they both had received it. She is included in the serpent's inquiry, and she includes herself in the answer; moreover, as she did eat, and as she was punished for eating,
it is clear that the prohibition was equally given to herself.
How long this trial was to have continued, if man had at the first stood firm in his innocence, we cannot know. We cannot know, whether it was to be a trial to all his posterity, or whether it would have ceased with Adam, although it is not inconsistent with any scriptural information we have, to suppose that it would have been concluded in him. In him was represented all his posterity; and it is probable, that, had he passed such a probation as should have been satisfactory to God, the possibility of offending might have been removed; but of this we are unable to judge; and it is a question, which, perhaps, it will be wise not to encourage. I will, therefore, only observe as regarding it, that, if all men thereafter were to have been subjected to the same trial; if the trial were to have been without limit,—some might have offended, and some might not have offended; some might have violated, and some might have abstained. It would, thus, seem, that, by means unknown to us, God would end the probation in a definite term, in his own good and appointed season; yet, be this as it will, there was, we may assure ourselves, a wise provision for the meeting of every circumstance of the case.
Many strange fancies have been entertained on the subject of this tree; some, concerning the appearance of it; others, concerning the prohibition of it. I have purposely and carefully refrained from introducing any of them here. Not founded on Scripture, they can have no truth in them; and, by consequence, there can be no utility in speaking of them. The matter itself is of too awful a character to be made the subject of loose conjecture and speculation; and, if the Scriptures have been so silent upon it, it becomes us to use a reverential forbearance. an improper desire of that which could not benefit him, and which had been forbidden, that occasioned the sin and the fall of Adam; and are we not running into the same error, and shall we not suffer the penalty of it, if we endeavour to violate the guards and the fences which God has fixed around this tree, in the knowledge of it? We see that it is enveloped in mystery, and that it is God who has so enveloped it. Is it not, then, sin, to seek, or even to desire, to break through the sacred inclosure? It is folly likewise; for who shall pass over that by which Omnipotence forbids access ? God will laugh to scorn him that attempts it; and, while he derides him and his folly, will also remember the sin, and appoint a punishment for it. The very grief which ought to affect us when we cast our minds back on Adam's transgression, or think upon the
consequences of it, should induce us to other views. The inquiry is a reminder of our state of littleness and sin; and the consciousness of that state should rather lead us to submit with humility to our ignorance, and rather to wish to continue in ignorance, than to covet more knowledge of what, the more knowledge we have, the more must our humiliation be increased. We have objects enough of legitimate inquiry. To the use of Adam every other tree of the garden was freely given; there was sufficient allowed for the satisfying of every desire that could be satisfied with innocence and safety: he needed not to have coveted the knowledge or the taste of this. So with ourselves. There is to us an abundance of objects which it is permitted us to search into; there are more than with all our pains we can attain unto any considerable knowledge of; and it is with much difficulty that we can attain unto a knowledge of those that are necessary to our peace and welfare ; and why should we consume our time, and harass our spirits, by seeking after that which will neither profit us, nor attend on our call, and which, moreover, has been forbidden? If it were fully known, it could but give us more knowledge of sin; and, surely, of sin we know enough. Therefore, let us cease all such inquiry; and let us look to the Scriptures alone for any information we may herein desire; what they do not give, is not intended for us; and, with whatever they give, let us be satisfied. It is not a subject, we must remember, of human wisdom, or of which human ingenuity and learning could have made any discovery, could have formed any conception, could have heard; we should never have known it but from revelation. Let us reject all attempted explanations, all theories, all fancies, which the conceit and folly of man would set before us in respect of it. It more becomes us to seek a knowledge by which we may recover our lost place in the favour of God; it more becomes us to seek the knowledge of his will; to learn the way by which He has made redemption possible to us. This will be a better employment; this will be a more profitable labour. This will bring us all the happiness our fallen condition will admit in the present life, and will carry us in the next to a state where our happiness shall be perfect; and in which all the knowledge our present faculties are not capable of apprehending shall be revealed to us; which shall give us a knowledge that shall satisfy, and in which there shall be no fear of transgression ; a knowledge, by which righteousness, and not sin, shall be revealed. God denies us no knowledge that can edify and profit. He did not deny a knowledge of this tree to our first parents, because He would retain them in ignorance for ignorance sake, but because the knowledge would work confusion and destruction. It was not, as the tempter insinuated, that their eyes should not be opened, but because, if their eyes were opened, the opening of them would be to their hurt. This was his real motive; and was it not a motive of benevolence ? was it not a motive far different from that which the author of evil attributed? Judge by the result. This knowledge did bring evil. Until they had it, no plague could come nigh to do them injury. That malignant being uses similar arts against ourselves; and, if we be deceived by them, we shall be justly condemned ; for we have not only their intrinsic falsehood to shew us of their ill intent, but the terrible example, also, of the original offence. Now to be deceived, is an accumulation of guilt, and a most wilful provoking of wrath.