« السابقةمتابعة »
it to the bitter end. And the election is a burden, not to man only, but also to Heaven and to God.
Suffering sin to live on and reproduce itself, with all its bitter fruits, in the universe which He made to be so blest, He needs must become its sacrifice; making the atonement for the sin which He did not on the moment crush, and bearing the burden of the sorrow which He did not at once destroy. And this is Divine love. It must share the sorrow which it allows to live on, though the fountain of the sorrow be a sin which it hates; it must lift and bear the burden which most righteous necessities lay heavily upon erring souls. We none of us know, even dimly, what is meant by “ Emmanuel,” “ God with us.” God always with us, incarnate from the hour when He announced Himself as the woman's seed, and the destroyer of her foe. God with us, our fellow in all the dread experience into which our sharing in the sin of Adam has driven us; knowing Himself the full pressure of its burdens, and infinitely more nearly touched than we are by everything that concerns the dark, sad history of mankind.
II. The fellowship of God with the race in the very hour of the transgression, infused at once a tincture of hope into the experience of the sinner, and made it, from the first, a discipline unto life instead of a judgment unto death. ,
We talk often rashly enough of the first curse. The curse is on the serpent, on the ground-everywhere but on man. There is no curse to the man who suffers in hope. The aim of God, in the hour of the first misery of the parents of our race, was to embreathe a hope into their wounded and stricken hearts. The forbidden fruit, like a serpent's bite, had struck its poison into the springs of their blood. Their eyes were opened, a new world was unveiled, but all was strange, and chill, and drear. They had won a new kingdom, but they were stricken with a death-like languor through all their blood. It was as though they had touched its sceptre but to die. They cowered in the coverts of the garden wounded, smitten; they shrank from God, from light, from all that had made the brightness of their home. Death had already set his cold seal upon their brow; they knew good and evil, but they knew, in the same instant, as the poison stole through their veins, that they were beginning to die. A great horror of dismay and anguish would seize them as they looked forth on this new and unknown world of which they had forced the entrance—the untrodden wilderness of freedom, on the edge of which, by one daring act, they had set their steps. We can understand how the darkness settled on the soul of Adam, when he realized at length that he had become his own master in his own world ; a world whose moral features,
within limits, he might mould and finish according to his own will. « re shall be as gods.” They felt, as they gazed forth from the gate of their happy Eden, over the wide, wild, unhomelike world, which was all their own, how awful was the height which they had scaled, how terrible was the endowment they had won. As the night fell shuddering over their first wilderness shelter, these “would-be gods” would moan like children lost in the darkness, and pray to be taken home again into their peaceful Paradise, and rest once more under the shield of the visible hosts of the Lord. But the night brought back no responses. The morning showed them no backward path. Eden was lost to them, and lost to them for ever. They were out there alone, alone, with the death-shiver already in their blood, and around them a wilderness world. And then the promise rose like a moon on their darkness; a soft light of heavenly pity and love shone down on their night of sorrow. It prophesied a dawn when the great Sun, the Sun of their Eden, should again rise and shine upon their world.
The promise changed at once and absolutely the character of their wilderness discipline. Man has been the child of hope, of a Divine hope, from the very hour of his transgression. The first word which the Lord uttered to the sinner announced
the commencement of a moral struggle and effort, the burden of which would rest on God. It would end in the destruction of that death which had already stricken man as its victim; and in the opening of a new home beyond the wide, drear wilderness, in which Eden itself would be forgotten, its quiet happiness eclipsed for ever by the transporting joys of heaven. As Adam took that hope into his heart, and measured the meaning of the Divine promise, he realized that God had literally cast in His lot with man, and was with him in the wilderness— not watching but tending his development, not pitying but sharing his sorrow, not surveying but fighting his battles, making man's enemy His enemy, man's hope His hope, man's deliverance, salvation, and glory His end. Then a light holier than the sunlight of Eden would steal over the waste ; and, ere the last gleam of the glory which had gilded the bowers of Eden had faded, the far distance would begin to glow with an intenser lustre, and reveal, as Canaan was revealed from Pisgah's crest, the broad sunlit world which was to be the home of souls made perfect by suffering—the rest which remaineth when all the struggle and anguish which God had stooped to share should be ended, and the fruits of the Divine discipline should be for ever won.
And this hope, which rises not out of the promise only, but out of the oldest fact in man's
history, the Incarnation, is, as I have said, the thread of light entwined with the woof of man's experience—the royal thread of the fabric of God. This hope, born of God, and kept alive by Him in the darkness of the world's night, is the one thing on earth and in man which has made his life and his history any other than a long death-agony, tended by the devil with the gospel of despair. It had been that, but that God has lit and kept alive in the great heart of humanity a hope which the devil has never been able to kill, whose root is Emmanuel, God with us. The measure in which any age or any soul has got its eye on the light which then was kindled, the hope which then was set before man, is the measure in which it has been able to hold out against the devil, and in the strength of God to spoil him of his prey. What this measure may have been in the dark night of anteChristian or Pagan ages, is a deep mystery. We know not. It is a dreary and, to the eye of sense, a hopeless history—the development of man, even under the inspiration of this fellowship of God. But the Apostle's language in the third chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, as well as the whole scope of Scripture, justifies us in believing that the Redemption which is by Christ Jesus, covers the whole dealings of God with man, from the first hour of his history to the last consummation. And