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Divinelevel—and the last clauses of the verse seem to imply that he was within reach of that which would bring him still nearer to the level ;—but, on the other hand, there was a new spot of weakness, where he had become vulnerable to foes, whom, in his innocence, he might safely have despised; there was a new element of disorder, which would bring discord and dire confusion into the harmonious sphere of his powers ; there was a new taint of decay and death, which, grand as he might seem to have grown by his experiment of freedom, would eat like a canker into his godlike constitution, and unless from Him who made him at the first some renewing, restoring influence should descend, must lay its proud structure in ruins in the dust.
It is from the first the history of the Prodigal. The youngest born, the darling of the father's heart, the joy of his home, choosing to seek the ends of his being away from that home, and in defiance of the father's will; wandering forth into the wilderness, falling inevitably into poverty and straits, level with the beasts, and in peril of a shameful and miserable death. But he is acquiring there, brooding over his experiment of freewill, and tracing out the paths of freedom to their issues, a breadth of knowledge, insight, and conviction, which, should the father in pity receive him to the home again, will make their fellowship richer in interest, joy, and hope than had been possible under other conditions, and will fill the home with songs more joyous, more triumphant than had ever been heard in Eden. “ It is meet that we should make merry and be glad; for this thy son was dead, but he is alive again; be was lost, but be is found.”
“Ye shall be as gods," was the devil's promise, “ knowing good and evil.” The text affirms that there was a truth in it. “ Bebold, the man is become as one of us." And yet it was a lie to the heart's core. None but God could stand on that Divine level. Man should stand there one day, partaker of the Divine nature. But for the man who in native, naked, human strength should stand there, there could be no issue but death. The devil was right as to the development. Man brought himself into the sphere of higher and more Divine experiences than his life in Paradise could have afforded to him. But the devil said nothing about the death.
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return," was the disenchantment, which, when Eve clung to the cold lips of Abel, and madly strove to rekindle there the glow of life, became complete. “Ye shall be as gods !” That rotting corpse of the beautiful shepherd, the darling of the first human home, was the comment on the devil's
promise. And yet Abel has known something now, of which there was not even a dream in Paradise; and Adam, even through his bitter anguish, rose to a godlike experience; he was able then to comprehend the sorrow with which the heart of the great Father had been filled by His child. The devil said to the prodigal, “ Wander freely, spend, enjoy ; that is life.” The prodigal found it, as every sinner finds it, to be death. What life has come out of it has been born, not of it, but of the strength, the tenderness, the quickening power of the Father's redeeming love.
The life in Eden, as I have said, is touched lightly in the Scripture :" And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air ; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them : and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field: but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept : and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam 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. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” Milton paints out the picture. His conception of the Paradise life is the expansion of the suggestion that man was placed in the garden to dress it and to keep it. The hues with which he paints this beautiful and happy life in Eden have tinged all our notions. It is Milton, who has made the Paradise of our modern English world :
“ So pray'd they innocent, and to their thoughts
“ Adam, well may we labour still to dress
Looking the subject calmly in the face, do you feel satisfied that this was the life which was meant for man? Exquisitely beautiful, lovely as a dream, as our memory of childhood's gladdest, sunniest hours, is this vision of Paradise. But still the question presses sternly, as manhood presses on childhood, was it for this that man was made on such a scale of godlike proportion, and endowed with the most awful gift with which God even can endow a son ? To wander pleasantly along the soft glades of a luxuriant garden, to bask on the grassy slopes in the noontide glow, lulled by the hum of joyous life that floats on the languid summer air, plucking