The Authority of Scripture: No. 2 - The Fall

 •  14 min. read  •  grade level: 9
James Boyd
No. 2. — The Fall
No other book has ever received a similar amount of attention at the hand of friend and foe. The contentions concerning its sayings have been continuous, cruel, and sanguinary. Hell has stormed at it, earth has hallooed after it, and fires have been kindled with the parchments upon which it was written; but its lovers have succored it, sheltered it, cherished it, studied its pages, imbibed its life-giving utterances, and with the precious volume clasped within their trembling hands, and its heavenly truths engraven upon their hearts, they have passed away from earth into the presence of Him of whom it speaks. It has been loved with all the love of the human heart under the influence of heaven, and it has been hated with all the hatred of the soul under the influence of the abyss of evil. On its account men have ever been ready to kill, or to be killed. The world will not have it, and yet it remains in it. The mare it has been persecuted, the more it has multiplied and grown.
In defense of its sayings the hearts’ blood of thousands has been freely poured forth. Its followers have been counted the offscourings of the earth, and have been murdered without mercy. They have been reckoned by the world as sheep for the slaughter, cast out among the unclean, the lawless and the transgressors; hunted among mountains, dens, and caves of the earth, and slaughtered wherever they were found. But when the world was finished with them, God came out and wrote their epitaph, and it reads thus: “Of whom the world was not worthy.”
Like Him of whom it testifies it finds itself in a world hostile to its teachings, and therefore is it despised and rejected of men; but like Him it passes onward in its unostentatious pathway of mercy, doing good, and healing all oppressed of the devil, for God is with it.’ Into an evil world it has come, but were the world not evil it would have no mission here. Had man remained as God made him such a revelation would have been unnecessary, for when he was made he had all the light needful to maintain him in the relationship in which he was placed with his Maker. But fallen man must have light beyond what was required for an innocent creation, if ever he is to be recovered for God.
But the wiselings of today will not believe that man is fallen. If he is not fallen he must be as God made him, and if he is as God made him I fail to see how he can be improved. Yet those who contend against the truth of the fall, are the people who are loudest in their demands for such legislation as will enable them to set about improving the race. Could I be led to believe that God made man as he is, I would have to discard the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and substitute in His place an evil being. It is impossible to entertain the idea of a Creator, and have any other thought than that everything created by Him has been created for His pleasure. And indeed this is just what Scripture teaches: “For Thy pleasure they are, and were created,” (Rev. 4:1111Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:11)). Therefore if there has been no fall, and men are as He made them, and consequently just in the condition in which He takes delight, and if He takes delight in them as I see them, what kind of a Being is He? Men make things in which they can take delight, and by which they may be served, and no man will intentionally and premeditatedly make anything that will be a grief to his heart. And I am sure the Creator will not. Therefore He must be understood by the state, the moral state, in which His creature is created.
Now the heavens are said in Scripture to declare the glory of God (Ps. 19.), but the earth never. Looking upward at the heavens with our natural eyes everything appears to us in the most perfect order. There is no confusion there, no conflict between the heavenly bodies, everything moves in the most perfect harmony together; there is no trespass committed by one inhabitant of the blue expanse against its neighbor; there is no noise of contending forces; one spirit seems to permeate the vast heavenly host, and all is peace. But when we turn to earth it is hell let loose. A pandemonium of discord jars upon the ear. Violence and corruption are seen everywhere. Scenes of horror fill the vision, and groans of despair grate upon the ear. Hatred, falsehood, outrage, murder, and suicide, stalk naked through the land. Pestilence, famine, hunger, nakedness, and death, cause the shriek of anguish to drown the revelry of gladsome day, and rend the bosom of the black-browed night. And I am told man is not fallen!
We are told that man is just is he should be at the present moment of his history, but that he will not ever be thus. He is struggling upward, and the goal is within measurable distance. Is it? From my observation of the progress things are making I should say he is struggling downward, and making very rapid progress in his descent. That men are better educated than they were a century ago is not in question. Possibly the poor eat better, and are better clothed also; but that men are more moral, that they love one another better, that they are more law-abiding, that they are less selfish, that they are more faithful in their relations of life, and that they are more to be trusted than they were a century ago, I do not believe. Take away the steam engine and the dynamo-electric machine; dispense with railway, telegraph, and telephone, and with all the trappings of the present century civilization, and have a good look at society, and you will find little to boast in above the savage.
We are told that nobody believes the Genesis account of the fall. One often wonders what kind of company these Bible critics keep. I think I might safely undertake to find some thousands of people who have never questioned it; and these are not men who readily take things for granted. It is asserted that the offense committed by Adam in the Garden of Eden was of too trivial a nature to entail such consequences. But this seems to me to be a very superficial and foolish kind of reasoning. I fail to see that it could have made any real difference what test it might have pleased God to apply to man. The gravity of man’s offense is not to be estimated by the intrinsic value of the article purloined; there was nothing in that at all. He might have eaten of that tree as well as of any other had it not been forbidden. The interdiction against eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ought not have been difficult for Adam to observe; it was not a heavy rent to pay for such a large estate. He was the vice-regent of God upon earth, made so by his indulgent Creator, and the tree which was forbidden to him was the witness that the earth and the fullness thereof were the Lord’s, and that Adam was not sole proprietor. The tree became a test of his loyalty to his Creator. The tribute demanded from him was a mere bagatelle, but this very fact made his transgression all the more inexcusable.
Had the toll demanded from the creature been a heavy tax upon his resources, compassion for the rebel would have been more pardonable, but the trivial tax upon such enormous wealth brought to light the hidden secret of the rebel’s heart, and the creature is manifested in his attempt to grasp Divinity itself. This was the bait which the arch deceiver of mankind dangled before the eyes of his victim, and which tempted him to transgress the commandment. Why should he have desired to be on equality with God? He should have had confidence enough in the goodness of his Creator to have enabled him to refuse such a bait.
But I need not waste words in bringing the gravity of the offense of Adam into light; the reader knows his own natural heart well enough to be conscious of the fact that, if he were able to bring its desires about, no one would occupy the throne of the universe but himself. In this world every man seeks to get all the power into his own hands, and had he the throne of the world it would not satisfy him, he would want the throne of the universe also. This suggestion instilled into the heart of Adam by the devil will reach its culmination in the “man of sin,” who will allow no one to worship any god but himself. He will take the place of God upon earth, and will put to death all who resist his blasphemous pretentions (2 Thess. 2. and Rev. 13).
But in spite of man’s denial that he is in a fallen condition, and in spite of his claim to be something, he is really ashamed to come out in the truth of his condition. We shelter ourselves from the inquisitiveness of our neighbors, and resent every attempt made by them to scrutinize our affairs. It may be nothing but idle curiosity prompts them to get near to us, but it is not because we know this that we so strongly resent their advances, and determine to hold them at arm’s length. Were we certain they could not find anything discreditable about us, we should not be so upset by their unmannered curiosity. Were everything that could be known about us creditable to us, we would be glad to be manifested before the assembled universe. But we shrink from exposure because we are unfit to be seen as we really are. This is very strange, especially as we know that others are no better than ourselves. They shrink from our penetrating gaze as timidly as we do from theirs.
But the knowledge of this does not help us, or make us bolder, for each of us has got his own secrets, of which he is rightly ashamed. Like Ham we are ready to sneer at the nakedness of our neighbor, but we are all very careful, when in our senses, not to babble into the ear of the world the secrets of our own guilty lives. My neighbor does not know me as I know myself, and I am determined that he shall remain in his ignorance. We keep our respective distances. I do not pry into the thoughts of his heart, and I expect the same consideration from him. This is all “fig leaves.” We are very pleased to find that people do not walk about in their naked hideousness; and should one of us expose himself in his moral degradation, we feel it to be an offense against all that is becoming, and insulting to society. Each person is at liberty to think whatever he pleases, and he may do what he pleases, as long as it does not injure his neighbor, but he must be careful that it does not get abroad. He must wear the “fig leaves,” or become ostracized from society.
Some of these haters of the Bible cannot understand any intelligent person continuing to believe in the fall of man as it is taught in Genesis. We are told that the legend was in existence as oral tradition long before Genesis was written. How it could be otherwise I am at a loss to know, and were it otherwise the fact would go far to prove it mere fiction. That the human race could be ignorant of the fall until Moses wrote the account of it is inconceivable. It was bound to travel with the posterity of Adam down the centuries. No doubt it would lose nothing by the telling in its travels, and therefore is it found in distorted forms in various countries, but in Genesis we have it in its simple naked truth.
We are told by some that it is scarcely alluded to in the Old Testament writings. Why should it be? Where was the need for constant repetition? It is referred to however, but had I found it very frequently referred to by the prophets, it would greatly have depended upon the setting in which I found it, whether my suspicion as to the writers’ faith in it would not have been aroused. Indeed it is seldom referred to in the New Testament, and when it is referred to, it is not hard to see the writer takes it for granted that those to whom he writes do not question the fact. It has no need to be proven in a world like this.
The difficulty with the philosophers of the world seems to lie in the fact that, whether man be fallen or not, his moral state is far from being satisfactory. As a general thing God is either altogether left out, as regards the theories of these men, or everything is God, whether it be man, bird, beast, reptile, or sponge. A God who is objective to His creation, neither of them confess. The evolutionists have got the whole creation upon a ladder whose top and bottom are both alike enveloped in impenetrable gloom. What he came from and what he is to arrive at are wrapped in obscurity. They think man is advancing toward a perfect state, but what that state is to be they know not. Some of us are quite certain that man is retrograding. That those who call themselves Christians are on the down-grade, no one will question who reads the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, and believes it to be a true account of the state of things in the Church at the beginning.
That men in these Islands are better governed than they were in the middle ages goes without saying, but if the crowd were let loose today, who would not tremble for the consequences? The deeds of the French revolution, if not worse, would be repeated. I fail therefore to see how men are better morally. I may be told that the fact that good laws exist is in itself a proof of a better moral state. I cannot accept it, for men do not make laws for themselves but for their fellows. Those who make them are often found guilty of breaking them. The luster of the world is artificial; what is natural is corrupt. Under an apparently well ordered community smolders a veritable hell of horrible rebellion, and this the powers that be will learn one of these days.
Those who think they see God in everything, are, in their own imagination, themselves God; and the fall is the incarnation of God in nature, so they tell us. This mysterious Power, which is themselves and the sponge, and all that lies between in the way of life, is finding expression in the universe, and they tell us that it is only as we read Him in the universe that we can know anything about Him. God, we are told, can only know His own capabilities as He is confronted by opposing forces, therefore He creates the forces that He may become known to Himself. If I could so degrade myself as to accept such a horrible idea, I would be very much interested to know what He thinks of Himself, when He sees Himself in the universe 1 Is this great mysterious Power contemplating Himself in the battle field, where men, who know not why they are pitted against one another, maim and murder until their feet slip in the hot red heart-blood of friend and foe? I wonder what the “god” of these men’s imagination thinks of himself as he looks at the violence and corruption which fill the earth, and at nature foaming at the mouth and “red in tooth and claw with ravin”!
How strange it is that man will have anything as a god, rather than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The reason, surely, is that if I confess Him, I must myself go down in the dust in His presence, and confess myself to be a poor, fallen, unworthy sinner, dependent upon His mercy and grace for my salvation. Pride has no place in the presence of the true God, and therefore must the proud heart of man be ever in deadly hostility to Him. Blessed be. His name, He can so work in His grace in our hearts that we are made to acknowledge the truth of the Book which discovers us to ourselves, and, turning to Him in the judgment of ourselves, to leave the decision of our eternal welfare in His own hands.