« السابقةمتابعة »
at will the fruits that hang ripe in downy clusters within easy reach of his hand, and exercised by such gentle toils as might prune and chasten the too luxuriant beauty of his bower ; lit by the rosy flush of dawn to his daily enjoyments, and by the moon's white cresset to his nightly repose ; king in a world in which there could be no collision; nature inanimate, soft and submissive as a bride adorned for her husband, nature animate, an obedient subject at his feet. It is a fair vision; but it is a vision of childhood-man's childhood, and the world's. Thus it was with them, the Scripture says, in their infant days. But man was made for a strain such as no life in a Paradise could put on him. There are in him powers of endurance, of courage, of hope, and of faith, such as no dressing and keeping an Eden could bring into play. Man seems to be so organized inwardly that his purest joys spring out of his sorrows, his riches grow by his losses, his laurels bloom in the sphere of his sternest conflicts, his fullest development is the fruit of his hardest toils, and his noblest becomings of his most utter sacrifices—while God completes the cycle, and ordains that his immortal life shall spring out of his death. Thus man is organized. The question then arises, is this condition of things the accident of sin ? Is this the full account of it—that man being in a sinful state,
God has thus adapted his mental and moral organization, as the best expedient which the case allows, with a view to his restoration? Or was this contemplated in his first constitution and endowment? Was man made, were all his powers ordained, with a view to this life of toil, struggle, suffering, sacrifice, and divine experience? Was man made for it? Was the world made for it? Was heaven made for it? Is this the one way through which we are bound to believe that the highest end of God in the constitution of man and of all things is to be gained ? And the answer must be, Yes. Man was made for it. Had he remained in Eden, the highest interest of heaven in man's career would have been lost; and more would have been lost, the highest, fullest, most absolute manifestation of God. Him, redemption alone could fully declare. If man comes forth into full manhood through that perverse exercise of his freedom, which leaves human nature suppliant for redemption under peril of imminent death, God, in redeeming man from the penalties and fruits of that perverseness, reveals Himself most fully as God.
The whole system of things around us seems to me to be constituted with a view to redemptionwhich comprehends the discipline and education of souls. The wilderness was there waiting, and all the physical order of the world. That was before
man, and was made for man. And it is all set to the same key-note of struggle, toil, and suffering. There is not a bit of rock or a blade of grass, there has not been from the creation, which is not a mute memorial of struggle, wounds, and death. All things travail, not simply because man has sinned, but because the redemption of the sinner is the work for which “the all ” has been prepared by the Lord. When the Lord looked on from the height of His eternal throne,“ to the habitable parts of the earth, and His delights were with the sons of men,” was it Eden which He looked on to with solemn joy, or Calvary? Was it glad intercourse which He foresaw with the loyal and loving children of Paradise, or sad, costly, but fruitful communion with the struggling, suffering children of the wilderness? Was it Eden, or Ararat, Canaan, Egypt, Sinai, Jerusalem, Calvary, and Christendom, that His glance comprehended? Was it the fruit of Eden, or the fruit which His tears and blood would win from these, that He then set before His sight? Man and all things were made in concert, to form part of the same great system, of which man's life was to be the key-note, and man himself was to be the head. And the whole system, the whole structure of man and of the world, is moulded to be the theatre of the redemption of the sinner. Not in Eden, but there on Calvary, and in Heaven,
which is the child of Calvary, we see realized the whole idea of God.
Was man, then, made to sin, or so made that sin is guiltless ? This is the great question which inevitably arises out of any honest treatment of the text.
Yes! is the answer of a great school of thinkers, who, in every age, have acted powerfully on the beliefs of mankind—the school which has sought “ by searching” to find out God and the mystery of His ways. For those who have not seen, or who refuse to see, the light which God sheds on the problem, the help to reason which springs from faith, it is hard to understand how any other answer is possible. Take purely intellectual definitions of God and of His relation to the universe, and there seems to be no room for freedom, and no reality in sin. If man sins, as we call it, according to this school, it is because he must sin. It is the inevitable action of the mechanism of his nature, or as the budding when the sap stirs in the ducts of flowers. Evil and good, fair actions and base, are but the various tones of the many-voiced organ of his being, but one hand in the universe touches them, one breath flows through them all, the hand and breath of Him who worketh all and in all. We are told that we take too narrow ground in our judgments; that sins, even the actions which we most despise and
loathe, will prove, if we give them time enough, like Jacob's tricks, but virtues in the bud. All things, it is said, have somewhat of a bitter tincture in their young bloom or blood, and so, too, hath man. Follies, sins, and crimes, give them time enough for the noontide of experience to purge and ripen them, will fruit in virtues; while each man's contribution, whatever it may be, is essential to the general life, movement, and progress of the world.
This is the argument which philosophy urges; these are the conclusions to which it tends, and in which it endeavours to find rest. You may call it Pantheistic, or what you will, but you do not thereby get rid of it. There it is still, a powerful form of human belief in all ages, and working its poison, more or less triumphantly, through all the leading philosophies of the world.
It is still the dim belief, in this nineteenth century of Christendom, of the vast majority of the human race. And it is not a thing to be puffed down. It is wonderful how many roads of thought, that look specious enough, lead on to it in the end. Nor can it be met by the popular theological notion, that man and the universe having been created on one scheme and with one object, which the accident of man's transgression completely frustrated, all things had to be adapted to a new con