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of some of his desires, would bring no alteration in his moral state. It is only when all good is recognised to be of God, and dependence on Him is substituted for self-dependence, that selfishness can cease and love be universal.
If this is the case, then conscience, which condemns selfishness and approves of righteousness and love, points not merely to a future state, but also to a God who is the Rewarder of right and the Punisher of wrong, and without whom unselfishness would be suicidal, and conscience an unmeaning anomaly. If, then, there was no God, there could be no conscience; and selfishness with its attendant misery, would be the law of man's being.
Nevertheless, although conscience is the evidence of man's relation to a righteous God, and the earnest of a future, it is evident that if man ignores that relation, stifies the voice of conscience, or regards it as the mere effect of superstition and shuts his eyes to the future, the effect is the same as if there was no God and no such thing as conscience, and man being self-dependent, the law of selfishness will become the sole law of his being, as it is in the lower animals.
If, then, sin and its consequent misery are due to the dominion of the law of self, and the latter is due to man's alienation from God, it will follow that the overthrow of the law of self and the restoration of the law of love is only possible in those who, being reconciled to God, and recognising their dependence on Him as a righteous, just, and merciful God, are able to endure suffering for righteousness' sake, upheld by the consciousness of His favour and the hope of an eternal reward.
The history of the temptation of our first parents has been supposed by some to be allegorical, and by others to be purely mythical. The latter supposition, which virtually denies the Bible to be the Word of God, need not be considered ; and with regard to the former, although it may not be contrary to the spirit and method of revelation, there seem to be very decided objections to it.
The supporters of the allegorical idea object that the circumstances of the temptation, understood literally, appear to be too trivial for an event of such solemn importance; but such an objection overlooks the principle and essence of spirituality. 'Man looketh on the outward appearance,' and is naturally inclined to measure the importance of a thing by the grandeur and solemnity of its material manifestation; but the lesson taught to Elijah has to be learned by all, namely, that the deepest and most solemn revelations of the infinite and eternal God are not in the material manifestations of His power, the thunder, the whirlwind, and the fire, but in His moral manifestation, or that 'still, small voice' which speaks directly to the spirit of man. In like manner, there are few who consider that the most magnificent temple or cathedral worship, with a thousand voices worshipping God in set forms and phrases, moves not the Infinite Creator of all things like the prayer of some poor and needy outcast, whose heartfelt cry of distress, unseen and unheard by man, enters direct into the ear of the Lord God of Sabaoth.
It would matter little, therefore, what were the particular external circumstances which accompanied the fall of man, provided we can perceive and understand the spiritual influences and principles underlying them; but circumstances of great grandeur and solemnity, by attracting the attention and absorbing the imagination, would have obscured the spiritual signification, and directed the mind to the merely external accessories. For this reason, therefore, we might expect that an event of such tremendous spiritual importance would be so ordered as to have the simplest material surroundings. Moreover, were it otherwise, it would be entirely contrary to what we can see and observe in the very nature of things. The greatest things have the smallest beginnings ; the tiny stream, which swells into the mighty river, is an apt similitude of those trivial incidents, unthought of at the time, which eventually result in the overthrow of kingdoms, and the revolution of nations and of human thought.
Our first parents were as children in moral things, and as such they must be regarded, and the simplicity of the incidents of the temptation was in keeping with their character. Perfect in their physical constitution, they were placed under a single prohibition, such as a parent might enjoin upon its child. Every possible physical want and desire was amply provided for, and the prohibition presented no possible temptation to their as yet unperverted appetites and desires. It was simply a warning that evil would follow a certain act, for which there was, to them, no necessity or temptation.
But why was this seemingly arbitrary prohibition given to them ?
Sin is the trangression of the law, but in that law there is nothing arbitrary. It is essential; for man, being consciously dependent on the Creator, was constituted to acknowledge, to rejoice in and to find his happiness in, that dependence; and in Adam's case that conscious dependence on God was probably of a far more intense character than angels could possibly know. Such dependence also, in unfallen man, would be accompanied by perfect trust and obedience; and God, in imposing a command on Adam which in no way affected his happi. ness, and did not therefore disturb his confidence in Him, simply brought him face to face with the essential law of his being, on which all his happiness and his very existence depended.
For we are not to suppose that the forbidden fruit had any occult spiritual influence in it, as if matter could be converted into spirit, and that wisdom and knowledge could be received by the stomach ! We must look to the spirit and not to the letter of the incident; and the result which followed on eating the forbidden fruit, as we shall see, was the simple and direct consequence of disobedience to God, and would have equally followed the transgression of any other command.
Why, then, was Adam thus at once brought face to face with the law of his moral being ? Why was he at once brought into a state of probation ?
Adam, as a free agent and a finite being, was liable to be tempted and to fall; and although the limitations and necessities of his physical constitution made him so much more consciously dependent on God than were the angels who fell, and therefore less likely to be tempted, like them, through pride and self-confidence, yet the very limitation of his physical constitution, which confined the range of his knowledge and perceptions, rendered it possible for him to be deceived.
If so, then we may conceive that the idea of self.
dependence might become a source of temptation to him, could it through such deception be made to appear, even for a moment, preferable to that trust in God on which his happiness depended.
It was therefore necessary, on this very account, to bring him face to face with the fact, and to warn him most solemnly that all happiness and growth towards perfection depended on his obedience and loyalty to his Creator, and that it was his highest interest and truest happiness to obey. This, in effect, was exactly what the prohibition was intended to teach. It was as if God had said to him: “Trust in Me, obey Me, be guided by Me, look to Me for all you want and for all you wish; for if you do not you will surely die.'
Man, however, did not fall, like Satan, by an act of wilful rebellion against God. Adam was tempted by the woman, and the woman was deceived by Satan. The woman being deceived was in the transgression, but Adam was not deceived' (1 Tim. ii. 14). People are apt to think that to be deceived into committing sin is an ample excuse for it; but from the Apostle's statement it is clear that Adam, who sinned with his eyes open, is regarded as less guilty than Eve, whose mind was blinded by Satan's sophistries.
There is indeed excuse for the man who sins, being led to believe that a thing is right, of which the evil is not directly evident, and against which he has never been warned. But there is no excuse for the person who, because he wishes to do a wicked act, of which the evil is evident, or against which God has warned him, willingly accepts the sophistry which enables him to silence conscience. So also we make allowance for the man, who, under strong provocation, slays another and repents of his deed; but we make none for one who, actuated by greed or envy, deliberately compasses the death of another, and persuades himself that he does no