REV. EDWARD H. MAY
However diversified the human family may be in body or mind, its members are all evidently descended from the same parent stock. Every theory on the natural history of man, which has been introduced to the world in opposition to the Mosaic account of his creation, has, by its sandy foundation, heterogeneous materials, and cumbrous architecture, insured its own ruin; while the deepest researches of science on the same subject, have illustrated and confirmed the simple statements of the Bible.
Gratitude for what God made us, and humility for what we have made ourselves, should alike lead us to revert to our first progenitors. In the present brief article, we shall not dwell on the first and noblest specimen of the Creator’s skill, but shall turn our attention to Eve, the mother of our favoured race. Her maker was her God. “Male and female created he them.” (Gen 1:27.) Seeing that it was not good for man to be alone, Jehovah “cast him into a deep sleep,” (Gen 2:21) and took one of his ribs and made him a partner. One has said (no less truly than quaintly) that “man is dust refined, but woman dust doubly refined.” As man was “made in the image of God,” (Gen 9:6) so also was woman. The term image must refer to the immaterial part, the soul, and especially to its spotless purity. Though the Scriptures are silent respecting her person, yet are we sure that hers was the perfection of beauty. The man indeed was all, and more than all that we can imagine, in our most sublime and poetic meditations, of august unearthly dignity. But the loveliness that by its aspect refines and elevates the affections, belongs to the soft, graceful, and more elegant form of the female. It is in full accordance with the purest emotions of the human heart to admire such beauty, as approaching nearest to the more wonderful works of the Most High. What, then, must have been this lovely parent of our race, when first presented to the wondering eyes of our father Adam! How chaste and complete the symmetry! How expressive of all that could charm, the countenance! The sparkling eyes were lit up by unsullied intelligence. The fair and roseate cheeks were untainted by the crimson blush of shame. No falsehood caused the tongue to stammer in its speech, but every expression, in look, or word, or act, was the tuneful utterance of the voice of God. The priceless jewel in this fair casket bore the impress of its Maker, and formed an alliance with the skies.
Man being formed for society, this exquisite being is given him as his wife. The marriage contract was ordained in heaven, and celebrated in Eden. Though man was sleeping when woman was formed, he was not ignorant of the material of her creation, for when God brought her to him he said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man, therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” (Gen 2:23.) To this passage the Saviour himself refers, when speaking to the Jews on the subject. Thus, marriage is not merely a civil contract, but is a Divine institution. And in its origin it is coeval with the creation; and fully demonstrates that the law of morals and the law of nature are coincident.
The first pair, thus united, have for their dwelling‐place the garden of the Lord, “eastward in Eden.” Many have been the disputes about the exact location of this happy spot. It is not important to acertain this point; it was doubtless in every way worthy of Him whose hand had made it. The residents were completely happy, for they were perfectly holy. Their Father smiled on them from heaven, and filled them with felicity and joy. Though not to toil, they were yet to be employed, and every work proclaimed the Maker’s glory and the creature’s good. The day was passed in active ease, without debasing sloth; the night returned to bless them with refreshing slumbers, undisturbed by guilty dreams. This garden, and these unpolluted pleasures, were the type of another Paradise, the dwelling of the second Adam, where all his true disciples shall with him enjoy the “glory that can never fade.” (1Pe 5:4.)
The bliss, however, of this fairest of our race, was but of short duration; full soon this happiness was marred, and gone! The tempter found his way into Eden, and sought but too successfully to ruin this more than earthly pleasure. He was not ignorant of the command that had been given by Jehovah, not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge: he knew the penalty annexed to the transgression. He, in the gay attire of the serpent, commences his attack. It is generally believed that the serpent, before he received his doom from the mouth of God, was one of the most beautiful creatures; and even now, some of the species in Egypt, Arabia, and other parts of the world, are of a golden colour, and reflect the sunbeams with surprising splendour. The fiery serpents are called by Moses (Numbers 21:6) seraphim, a name applied to a high order of angelic beings. Satan having thus entered into the serpent, endeavours to lead the woman to doubt whether God would punish her transgression; insinuates that God has himself deceived her, and that he knows that instead of dying through tasting that fruit, “they shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:5.) Alas! where is impregnable perfection found? Not in human nature, in its best estate. There seems to be a tendency in all created beings to depart from the great centre of infinite perfection, and that only the attraction of infinite love, and the action of Almighty power, can keep moral beings fast in their allegiance.
Need we state the success of the enemy of God in his attempt to draw our first parents from their obedience to the law they had received? He gained, through the ear, an entrance to the heart. His murderous lie tainted the soul hitherto perfect. The woman raised her eyes to the forbidden fruit, “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, and she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her, and he did eat.” (Gen 3:6.) Thus the senses, given for the most refined enjoyment, by this first perversion proved inlets to the direst evils, to themselves and their posterity. Immediately on disobeying the command, their eyes were opened to realize the falsehood of the tempter, and their own ruin. “The woman was first in the transgression.” (1Ti 2:14.) Instead of becoming a god, and rising in the scale of existence by an increase of pure knowledge and divine enjoyment, she found herself fallen from her original state of bliss and holiness. Her eyes were indeed opened to behold her sin and shame, to find that she had lost the image of her God, and forfeited his friendship. Now she fears to meet his eye, or hear his voice, and, with the partner of her guilt, attempts to hide herself among the trees of the garden. The same soft, refreshing shades remain, but they cannot cool the fever of the guilty soul; the warbling songsters can no longer charm the perturbed spirit. The inferior animals that grazed around her were more blest than she, for though no intellectual enjoyment could be theirs, yet, moved by the guiding instinct God had given them, they innocently pursued their course. How dreadful the effect of sin! The most beauteous object in creation contained a guilty, trembling, conscience‐smitten soul, that had lost the image of its Maker, and was exposed to his curse. What thick darkness must sin have introduced to this once luminous mind, that there should remain so little knowledge of God, as to suppose the possibility of evading his all‐penetrating eye! Soon was she undeceived. The voice which hitherto had been accustomed to utter untold blessings, now calls on the man to leave his fancied hiding‐place, that he may give an account of his ungrateful conduct. How vain the plea that he was “naked and ashamed.” (Gen 3:8.) How weak and insufficient the excuse, “the woman whom thou gayest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat.” (Gen 3:12.) Was not he the stronger? Why did he bow to the weaker vessel? How ungrateful to him who gave her to cheer his solitude with social converse and guiltless pleasure. And the plea of the woman was no less weak and unworthy. The fruit of one tree only in the spacious, well‐stocked garden, had been denied, but she regards the voice of the serpent more than that of God! “The serpent (said she) beguiled me, and I did eat.” (Gen 3:14.) Though the deceiver is not called on to give an account of his deception, yet he must receive his doom. “And the Lord said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat, all the days of thy life, and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Gen 3:14-15.) The woman next receives her sentence,—“I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Gen 3:16.) Adam’s transgression originated in hearkening to the voice of his wife. His punishment is to be seen in the earth being barren of what he needs for sustenance, and prolific in thorns and briers, and the labour consequent on this terrene curse, together with the return of his body to the earth from which it had been taken. The death denounced as the penalty of man’s transgression, includes the second death, that of the soul. And now the woman receives the name by which she is usually called, Eve, “because she was the mother of all living.” (Gen 3:20) The offspring of this fallen pair soon make it manifest that the seeds of corruption shall produce their corresponding degeneracy. The first‐born, which the fond mother looked on as “a man from the Lord,” (Gen 4:1) bore strikingly the image of God’s greatest foe. His employment was to till the ground, and to gain his bread by the sweat of his brow. Eve’s second son, Abel, was a keeper of sheep, a good and righteous man. We doubt not the Father of mercies had given to the first family a command to approach him with a bleeding sacrifice, for “without shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Hbr 9:22.) Cain neglects, or is opposed to such sacrifice, and brings (like some modern infidels) the fruits of the earth as a reluctant sacrifice to the God of nature. This uncalled‐for offering is rejected. Abel “obtains witness that he is righteous,” (Hbr 11:4) and obtains this witness by faith; “he offers a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain.” (Hbr 11:4.) His is the bleeding lamb, typical of the Lamb of God, “slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev 13:8.) It is most probable that the flock of Abel was used only for sacrificial purposes. And was the fond mother to see her untoward first‐born improved and rendered faithful by the counsel and example of his pious brother? No, truly; her sorrows are to be increased in weight and bitterness by the spirit and conduct of the murderous Cain. When he found that the Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering, “he was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” (Gen 4:5.) Base envy filled his heart. Regardless of the admonition of the Lord, he seeks in the field his brother, talks with him to beguile him or excite him, and, unprovoked, “rises up and slays him.” (Gen 4:8.) Here we have the fruit of Cain’s infidelity; the foulest crime that had yet stained this earth, a brother murdered by a brother’s hand! What a sight was this to meet a mother’s eyes! Who can conceive the anguish which must have filled her heart, to see the bleeding corpse of one so much and so justly loved, and to know that the remorseless hand of her first‐born had performed the deed! And to what source was she to trace this crimson stream? Her own unholy conduct in listening to the tempter’s voice, forgetting, as she had done, the mild restriction contained in the just command she had received. Her sorrows must have increased a thousand fold, when memory traced to her individual disobedience the seeds of corruption and sin of which she now had this most emphatic evidence. All in her and around her, bearing the marks of imperfection and sin, loudly recalled her disobedience. The earth she trod was not the fruitful Eden, but a hard and barren soil. She had led her partner to transgress, and was the original cause of his labour and sorrow, his sin, its accompanying miseries and gloomy forebodings. The children that once rejoiced her heart, where are they? The righteous one slain, the other a wandering murderer, bearing the mark of Jehovah’s curse. What a desolate heart, and what a cheerless home was hers!
How often have the worst scenes of this sad drama been reacted by her degenerate descendants! How many and how cruel have been the deeds of blood—the fields of carnage, and every private feud, as well as warlike wholesale slaughter that has stained this earth, we can trace to the same source. However true this statement, it would ill become us to forget that man was a guilty partaker of his fair partner’s crime. That he reminded her not of the command they were about to violate, and its awful penalty! And well will it be for us to remember, “that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23.) Our sins are wilful, against the voice of conscience and the voice of God. It is quite probable that were any one of us perfect as was Eve, and placed in the same circumstances, we should prove ourselves no stronger than did she in the hour of trial.
Her future course is scarcely named. She had other children given her, and, among their descendants, the promised seed. He has “bruised the serpent’s head.” (Gen 3:15) and “finished the work that was given him to do.” (Jhn 17:4.) His heel, or human nature, was indeed bruised. “Never were sorrows like unto his sorrows, but he shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; and as sin has reigned unto death, even so grace shall reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Isa 53:11; Rom 5:17.) Among the redeemed by the second Adam, we hope to see our first parents; Adam with more than Paradisiacal dignity and righteousness; and Eve, with beauty and loveliness that can only be the portion of them that bear the image of our risen Lord, and who “shall be like him, when they see him as he is.” (1Jo 3:2.)