•  10 min. read  •  grade level: 12
From whatever point the history of Adam is viewed it seems calculated to leave only an oppressive weight upon the mind. From his history the cloud in which his sin enveloped him never seems to pass away.
In him we see the height of creature happiness for a moment, followed by the continued sadness of one who kept not his first estate. Fallen from the place of authority and honor, and become the drudge of toil in exile from an =laborious paradise, his altered external circumstances presented a daily protest against his sin, and told him in daily reiterated language that none " can harden himself against God and prosper;" and " There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death!"
Alas! that man's biography should almost immediately begin with the history of his rebellion against the hand that had formed him in His image; and that, instead of the record of his gratitude and praise, we should read only of his distrust, with its bitter fruits, of the God whose goodness was poured around him on every hand. His happiness and honor are his own, but they spring from a bounty and goodness which he neither acts nor counsels. In the scene of enjoyment in which he is set he is but a quiescent receiver. His fortunes, his glory, his high estate, own nothing in the way of self-achievement. They are the spontaneous gifts of that God who gave him life, and blessed him, and called him to intercourse with Himself and set him over the works of His hands. He is created-blessed-set in authority -the tests of responsibility and life put before him-and what is the result? He is tempted-sins-and forfeits all!
Brief and passing is the bright picture of Adam's happiness, as the head of creation, in innocence and intercourse with God; though every feeling of his heart and nature then was that which God had directly implanted or which was awakened in his bosom by the knowledge of His goodness. Soon in the prosecution of his history far other scenes arise, and other objects and other thoughts arrest the mind.
In Adam and Cain sin is presented in its perfected forms: in Adam, sin against God; in Cain, sin against man in the image of God. Sin in Adam bore the stamp of distrust of God's goodness. Cain's sin is hatred of grace and of him who is the object of that grace. Both are seen in full character in man's hatred and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ: " They have seen and hated both me and my Father." In Abel and in Enoch, on the other hand, blessed be God, are presented the full and perfect redemption from sin by the power of divine grace. Abel is the first exemplar of righteousness by faith, now sin had destroyed man's innocence; Enoch presents the perfect triumph over death, as the consequence of sin; thus bringing into full relief "the hope of righteousness by faith."
But hope does not spring from any change wrought by grace in Adam, in his condition or his estate. In the ways of God "light arises in darkness;" but it is seen only as the eye is turned away from Adam to rest upon the mystic promise of "the woman's seed."
In the history of the first man, as the head of disobedience, whatever his personal sense of restoring mercy, we read in the broadest characters this solemn truth-which is yet the test of all true obedience and the basis of all real blessing-" Let God be true, but every man a liar!" For, be it observed, that the hope of redemption through "the seed of the woman" comes not to us through any promise made to Adam, as is sometimes wrongly assumed; nor does it present to us the unfolding of Adam's restoration, who never regains his first estate. It is rather his utter setting aside as the keeper of others' fortunes, or the depository of others' blessings, who had so signally ruined his own. In him we see sin dealt with directly by the Lord, and consequences attached to it, in the government of the world, of which every age affords its attestations, while it leaves the solution of the enigma, of an almost universal scene of corruption, and misery, and death, in a world which a God of goodness made and rules, for the history before us to supply-inexplicable on any ground but that which revelation here unfolds.
The chief elements of Adam's moral discipline, as it appears, are to be found in the history of God's dealing with his sin, which the third chapter of Genesis presents; and it is in this scene alone that we find any direct intimations of his intercourse with God after the fall.
There was, doubtless, restored intercourse, but it is unnoticed in the word, because another lesson is impressed on his history, by the wisdom of God, than that which Abel's, or Enoch's, or Noah's presents. It marks the omissions of scripture to be as striking as its declarations, that, whatever may be inferred, nothing is stated concerning Adam's salvation and restoration to God. Nothing is said about the reality of his faith; neither is it anywhere stated, as of Enoch and others, that "he walked with God." There is no attestation, as in the case of Abel, that " he was righteous," on the only ground of righteousness, for man, now sin had come in; but he takes his place in scripture after the fall only as the progenitor of a race involved in the ruin of his sin, and as the head of disobedience in contrast with Christ, the obedient one. He carries with him through the world the consciousness that he had sinned away everything and that recovery was utterly beyond his power. He is never seen in any sense as one who was trusted anew. Re begets sons and daughters, and at length dies; but the effects of God's dealings on his soul can be little gathered from any direct statements of the divine word:
The reason of this is plain, and not a little instructive to us.
The distinctive principle of God's dealings with Adam appears to have been to impress upon him a deep and lasting conviction of the truth and certainty of all that he had distrusted, the absence of which had been the occasion of his fall. Hence his exile from paradise, his preclusion from the tree of life, the sterility of the earth and his consequent incessant toil, the throes of childbirth which he is obliged to witness, as the race is increased, and finally, his familiarity with death before he himself is absolutely its victim, are all arrayed in evidence of the truth of the character of that God whom he had distrusted and disobeyed; while in Cain he sees sin suddenly ripening and assuming another shape, and telling his terror-stricken soul that the heart once uplifted in rebellion against God, but prepares for the murderous uplifting of the arm against all that bears the stamp of His image and favor in man. What pregnancy does this thought give to the simple statement of a later revelation-" This commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God loveth his brother also!" It is the law of the divine nature, in opposition to the corrupted nature of man. It is not, however, in Adam's history, but in the unfolding of grace in the promise of the woman's seed, that the traducings of the enemy are met, and the God who was maligned as grudging to man the easy gifts of His creative bounty, is seen to have so loved as to give His only-begotten Son.
But we have said that the elements of Adam's future discipline were lodged in his soul, while God was dealing with his primeval sin. And first as to temptation, or the source and spring of evil in man; he was practically taught that truth which is given to us in the way of precept, but which received its embodiment and illustration in Adam's living experience, " Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil,' neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted when he is drawn aside of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin; and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death." Then how effectually does be learn the folly of his aspirations after knowledge apart from God, in order to raise his condition or gratify his pride, when he sees that their only issue, as to himself, is a discovery of his own nakedness! " Their eyes were opened, and they knew that they were naked." As to guilt, also, he learns from his own hasty retreat to a hiding-place, amongst the trees of the garden, that man under its power instinctively flees from the presence of God, even before divine justice expels him thence; while the echo of that terrible question, " Where art thou?" continually reminds him that there is no darkness nor secret place where the workers of iniquity can hide themselves that the Lord will not see them. And further, the reason he gives for his fear-" I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself "-, is his own acknowledgment of the worthlessness of his fig-leaf coverings, when once the presence of the Lord is reached, whatever their estimation may have been in his own eyes or the eyes of others apart from that presence. And lastly, " Who told thee that thou wast naked?" makes him sadly aware of an inward voice unheard before, and reveals to him the birth-time and birth-place of conscience, henceforward, to be his companion and the inward witness of his sin.
But there is the other side of the question to be considered in his experience, and the effects of discipline on his soul. In his history we may note his entire submission to God, whether in the judgment of his sin, or in its terrible consequences, and the altered condition to which, by it, he is reduced. From this subjection -which is the first mark of grace-nothing in his subsequent history leads us to believe he swerved. As a sinner, he submits himself to the judgment of God. He consents to be set aside himself, and to look to the woman as the divinely appointed channel of life. He himself "calls his wife's name EVE, because she is-the mother of all living." He refuses not the coats of skins which divine goodness provides as a covering for them, instead of the aprons of fig-leaves, the work of their own hands. He rebels not against his expulsion from paradise, but submits to the toil which his sin had brought in, nor seeks to turn aside the edge of the curse. In his after-history we do not find him, like Cain, building cities, or engaging in any worldly enterprises, but submissively pursuing his toilsome path, until his earthly course is done. That he participated in the disappointed hopes of Eve, in the birth and after-history of Cain and Abel, there seems but little room to question; but the divine appointment of Seth in Abel's place is noticed as meeting the full recognition of his heart; and then his history is closed with the brief statement that "The days of Adam, after he had begotten Seth, were eight hundred years and he died."
Nothing is more calculated profoundly to impress the mind with the eternal truth of God and of His word than the thoughtful contemplation of Adam's history. If we look, no farther than to the government of this world, as exhibiting the consequences of his sin, how do the records of six thousand years bear witness that not one word of all that God has spoken, as to these consequences, has fallen to the ground! And who,. with this record in his mind, can fail to be impressed with its attestations, as they start up in his daily pathway, in the labor, and toil, and misery, and death, which abound and increase on every hand? And who, without this history, could have conceived or predicted that such consequences, and so lasting, could by possibility have hung upon a single step in departure from subjection to that word'?