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(2.) Others fancy, that there was really no such place, but that the whole account we have thereof, in Gen. ii. is allegorical ; thus Origen, Philo, and some modern writers : but no one can justly suppose this, who duly weighs the historical account we have of it, in scripture, with that sobriety and impartiality that he ought; for, according to this method of reasoning, we may turn any thing into an allegory, and so never come to any determinate sense of scripture, but what the wild fancies of men. suggest.
(3.) Others have supposed, that the whole world was one great garden, or paradise, and that when man was placed therein, it was so described, to signify the beauties of nature, before they were lost, by the curse consequent on sin: But this cannot be true, because God first made man, and then planted this garden, and afterwards put him into it ; Gen. ii. 8. and after the fall, he drove him out of it, chap. iii. 24. But, passing by these groundless conjectures, something may be determined, with more certainty, concerning the situation thereof, and more agreeable to scripture ; therefore,
(4.) It was situate in Mesopotamia, near Babylon, to the north-east end of the land of Canaan. This appears,
1st, From the country adjacent to it, which is called Eden, out of which the river that watered it is said to proceed, chap. ii. 10. This country was afterwards known by the same name, and is elsewhere reckoned among those that the king of Assyria had conquered, Isa. xxxvii. 12.
2dly, Two of the rivers, that proceeded from Eden, which watered paradise, were well known in after-ages, viz. Hiddekel, or Tigris, and Euphrates, especially the latter, of which we often read in scripture; and it is certain they were in Mesopotamia; therefore the garden of Eden was there. And, as it was the finest plantation in the world, this was one of the most pleasant climates therein, not situate too far northward, so as to be frozen up in winter ; nor too near the equator south-ward, so as to be scorched with excessive heat in summer; this was the place of man's residence at first. (a)
But if any are so curious in their enquiries, as to desire to know the particular spot of ground in which it was ; that is not to be determined. For though the place where paradise was, must still be in being, as much as any other part of the world ; yet there are no remains of it, that can give any satisfaction to the curiosity of men, with relation thereunto; for it is certain, that it was soon destroyed as a garden, partly by the flaming sword, or stream of fire, which was designed to guard the way of the tree of life, that man might no more come to it; and
ra) Vide Dr. Wells' Sacred Geography, and the excursions annexed to it.
thereby to signify, that it ceased to be an ordinance, for his faith concerning the way in which eternal life was to be obtained. And it is more than probable, that this stream of fire, which is called a flaming sword, destroyed, or burnt up, this garden ; and, besides this, the curse of God, by which the earth brought forth briars and thorns, affected this, as well as other parts of the world; so that, by reason thereof, and for want of culture, it soon lost its beauty, and so could not well be distinguished from the barren wilderness. And to this let me add, that since the flood, the face of the earth is so altered, that it is a vain thing for travellers to search for any traces thereof, or to pretend to determine, within a few miles, the place where it was.
Having considered the place of man's abode, to wit, paradise, we have,
2. An account of his secular employment therein. He was appointed to dress, or manure it; from whence we may take occasion to observe, that a secular employment is not inconsistent with perfect holiness, or a person's enjoying communion with God, and that blessedness which arises from it: but, on the other hand, it may be reckoned an advantage, inasmuch as it is a preservative against idleness, and those temptations that oftentimes attend it. Notwithstanding, though man was employed in this work, it was performed without that labour, fatigue, and uneasiness, which now attends it, or those disappointments, and perplexities, which men are now exposed to, whose secular callings are a relief against poverty, and a necessary means for their comfortable subsistence in the world, which had not man fell, would not have been attended with those inconveniences that now they are, as the consequence of that curse, which sin brought with it ; as it is said, In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, Gen. iii. 19.
3. We have a farther account of the provision that providence made for man's subsistence ; the great variety of fruits, which the earth produced, were given him for food, the tree of knowledge of good and evil only excepted. From whence we may observe the difference between the condition of man in paradise, and that of the saints in heaven, in which the bodies of men shall be supported, without food, when changed and adapted to such a way of living, as is inconsistent with this present state; which seems to be the meaning of that expression of the apostle, Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats; but God shall destroy both it and them, 1 Cor. vi. 13.
Here we may take occasion to enquire, whether the fruits of the earth were the only food which man lived on, not only before the fall, but in several following ages ? or, whether flesh was eaten before the flood ? It seems most agreeable to the dictates of nature, to suppose, that he would never have found out such an expedient, as killing the beasts, and eating their fesh to subsist him, had he not received an express direction to do it from God, which rendered it a duty. And we have a particular intimation of this grant given to Noah, after the deluge, when God says, Every moving thing that liveth, namely, every clean beast, shall be meat for you, Gen. ix. 3. from whence some conclude, that there was no flesh eaten before this; and that the distinction, which we read of, concerning clean and unclean beasts, which Noah brought with him into the ark, respected either such as were fit or unfit for sacrifice; or the clean beasts were such as God afterwads designed for food; and therefore there is a kind of prolepsis in their being called clean at that time.
The principal reason that induces some to suppose this, is, because we read, in the scripture but now mentioned, that when God directed Noah, and his posterity, to eat flesh, and considered this as a peculiar gift of providence, he said, Even as the green herb have I given you all things; that is, as when I created man at first, I gave him every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, that it should be to him for meat; but now have I given you all things, Gen. i. 29. that is, have made a considerable addition to your food by giving you a liberty to feed on flesh; where the manner of expression seems to intimate, that, in this respect, man's food differed from what it was before. This conjecture, for that is the most that I can call it, seems, to me, to have equal, if not greater, probability in it, than the contrary, which is the commonly received opinion relating hereunto ; and, if it be true, then we may observe, if we compare the food, by which man subsisted, with the length of his life, in the first ages of the world, that the most simple diet is the most wholesome; when men become slaves to their appetites, and pamper themselves with variety of meats, they do, as it were, dig their own graves, and render their lives shorter, than they would be, according to the common course of nature.
If it be objected to this, that man's not feeding on flesh, was such a diminution of his happiness, that it seems inconsistent with a state of innocency. To this it may be answered, that for man to feed on what the earth produced, was no mortification or unhappiness, to him ; especially if it were, by a peculiar blessing of providence, adapted to, as well as designed for his nourishment, as being his only food ; in which case none of those consequences would ensue, which would now attend a person's being wholly confined thereto. If this way of living was so far from destroying, or weakening the constitution of men, that it tended, by the peculiar blessing of God, not only to nourish, but to maintain health, and was medicinal, as well as nourishing, and so conducive to long life ; and if the fruits of the earth, before that alteration, which they might probably sustain by the deluge, or, at least, before the curse
of God was brought upon the earth by man's sin, differed vastly from what they now are, both as to the pleasantness of their taste, and their virtue to nourish; if these things are supposed, it cannot be reckoned any degree of unhappiness, though man, at this time, might have no other food, but what the earth produced : But this I reckon among the number of those probable conjectures, concerning which it is not very material to determine, whether they are true or false.
4. God gave man dominion over all creatures in this world, or, as it is expressed, he put them under his feet, Psal. viïi. 6. which not only argues a superiority of nature, but a propriety in, and liberty to use them, to the glory of God, and his own advantage. No creature was in itself a snare to him, or a necessary occasion of sin ; for as the creature at first, to use the Apostles phrase, was not liable to the bondage of corruption, so it was not subject to vanity, Rom. viii. 20, 21. by an inclination that he had in his nature to abuse it. And as for those creatures which are row formidable to man, as the lion, the tyger, &c. these, as it is more than probable, had not that fierceness in their nature, before the fall of man, and the curse consequent thereupon, so that our first parents could make as much use of them, and had them as much under their command, as we have the tamest creatures. And it is not improbable, that they did not prey upon, and devour one another, as now they do, since providence provided the produce of the earth for their food, Gen. i. 30. and therefore, by a natural instinct, they sought it only from thence; so that the beasts devouring one another, as well as their being injurious to man, is a standing mark of the curse of God, which was consequent on sin.
We read of a time in which the church is given to expect, that the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock, and dust shall be the serpent's meat ; they shall not hurt, nor destroy, in all God's holy mountain, Isa. Ixv. 25. which, if it shall be literally accomplished, is an intimation that it was so at first, as it contains a prediction of the restoring of this part of nature, in some respects, to its first estate. But, supposing it only to be a metaphorical description of the church's happy state in future ages ; the prophet's using this metaphor, argues the possibility of the thing's being literally true, and that it is a consequence of man's fallen state that it is not so now, therefore it is probable, that it was otherwise at first. Such conjectures as these may be excused, if we dont pretend
them to be articles of faith, nor think it worth our while to contend with those who deny them.
5. It is farther observed, that God ordained marriage for man's help, and that not only in what concerns the conveniences of this life, but as a means to promote his spiritual welfare, as such a nearness of relation lays the strongest obligations to it; and also that the world might be increased, without any sinful expedient conducive thereunto ; and herein there was a standing precedent to be observed by mankind, in all succeeding ages, that hereby the unlawfulness of polygamy, and other violations of the seventh commandment, might evidently appear *.
II. We proceed to consider the providence of God, as conversant about 'man's spiritual concerns, and that in three respects, namely, in granting him communion with himself, in instituting the Sabbath, and entering into a covenant of life with him.
1. Man, in the estate in which he was created, was favoured with communion with God: This supposes a state of friendship, and is opposed to estrangement, separation, or alienation from him ; and, as the result hereof,
(1.) God was pleased to manifest his glory to him, and that not only in an objective way, or barely by giving him a conviction, that he is a God of infinite perfection, which a person may have, who is destitute of communion with him : but he displayed his perfections in such a manner to him, so as to let him see his interest therein, and that, as long as he retained his integrity, they were engaged to make him happy.
(2.) This communion was attended with access to God, without fear, and a great delight in his presence ; for man, being without guilt, was not afraid to draw nigh to God; and, being without spot, as made after his image, he had no shame, or confusion of face, when standing before him, as a holy, sin-haing God.
(3.) It consisted in his being made partaker of those divine influences, whereby he was excited to put forth acts of holy obedience to, and love and delight in him, which were a spring and fountain of spiritual joy.
Nevertheless, though this communion was perfect in its kind, as agreeable to the state in which he was at first, yet it was not so perfect, as to degree, as it would have been, had he continued in his integrity, till he was possessed of those blessings, which would have been the consequence thereof; for then the soul would have been more enlarged, and made receptive of greater degrees of communion, which he would have enjoyed in heaven. He was, indeed, at first, in a holy and happy state, yet he
See Quest, cxxxix.