4. ON THE PROHIBITION
Much of the beauty of Scripture is lost to us for lack of spiritual
discernment. The ways of God appear dark, in proportion to the thick film
which rests upon our understanding.
It is awful to reflect, how weak, polluted worms of earth dare to charge the
infinite wisdom of Jehovah with folly. Surely we must say with the Psalmist,
"God is strong and patient"—and God is provoked every day.
The following considerations show at once the reasonableness, holiness, and
goodness of the law of paradise.
I. As God had made man the governor of this lower world, and crowned him
with so many mercies, "it was manifestly proper that he should require some
particular instance of homage and fealty, to be a memorial to man of his
dependence, and an acknowledgment on his part, that he was under the
dominion of a higher Lord, to whom he owed absolute subjection and
2. What instance of homage could be more proper, circumstanced as man then
was, than his being obliged, in obedience to the divine command, to abstain
from one or more of the fruits of paradise?
3. It pleased God to insist only upon his abstaining from one; at the same
time that he indulged him in full liberty as to the rest.
4. This easy and reasonable prohibition served both as an act of homage to
the supreme Lord from whose bountiful grant he held paradise, and all its
enjoyments; and was also fitted to teach our first parents a noble and
useful lesson of abstinence and self-denial; one of the most necessary
lessons in a state of probation; and also of unreserved submission to the
authority and will of God; and an implicit resignation to his supreme wisdom
5. This test of their obedience, from the nature of it, tended to habituate
them to keep their sensitive appetites in subjection to the law of reason;
to take them off from too close an attachment to inferior sensible good; and
engage them to place their highest happiness in God alone.
6. This injunction not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good
and evil, would also tend to keep their desires after knowledge within just
bounds, so as to be content with knowing what was really proper and useful
for them to know; and not presume to pry with an unwarrantable curiosity
into things which belong not to them, and which God has not thought fit to
Now who can seriously meditate upon these valuable considerations, without
being affected at the goodness of God in commanding, and at the baseness of
man in transgressing, such a reasonable test of his obedience? This law was
truly a law of love; and the breach of it was the highest instance of
ingratitude and rebellion.
How inconceivably great is the grace of God, that at the very time when he
came down to pronounce the sentence of death upon his offending creatures,
he should reveal, by promise, an Almighty Savior, even Himself, who should
destroy the power of darkness, put an end to transgression, make an end of
sin, bring in ever-lasting righteousness, and form a people to show forth
If we examine attentively the foregoing considerations, we shall find that
nothing was imposed upon Adam, that we are not now commanded to perform,
with respect to the spiritual part of the injunction.
We must love; God supremely—acknowledge our dependence upon him—seek our
whole happiness in him—delight in his law—be resigned to his will—keep our
sensitive appetites in subjection—and check all unhallowed curiosity into
the ways and wisely hidden things of God.
Every deviation from this state of heart and practice is a deviation from
the holy law of God; and as a necessary consequence entails guilt and misery
upon us. Thus we see, that happiness is inseparable from obedience. We learn
from hence, that misery and wretchedness do not depend upon our station, but
on the state of our souls. Adam in paradise was happy, while innocent. Adam
in paradise was miserable, when guilty.
The law delivered on Mount Sinai is a standing revelation of the holiness of
God; and the various precepts of the Gospel are all in consonance with these
pure and undefiled commandments. Both the injunctions of the moral law, and
the precepts of the Gospel, were virtually included in the original law
given to our first parents in paradise, thus forming a chain of holiness
from the beginning to the end of times. It resembles a beautiful flower, of
which the bud is seen in Eden, the expanding leaves on Mount Sinai and its
glowing beauties in Emmanuel's land.
Heaven is its native soil. There shall all the trees of righteousness be
finally transplanted; and there shall the lovely flowers of paradise expand
their beauties, and spread their fragrance fed by perpetual dews of heavenly
grace, and screened forever from the blasting pestilence of this sinful
Oh blessed Redeemer, Lord divine!
With beams of mercy on me shine;
Until every thought and word agree,
Until every work be done for thee.
What is the world but grief and care?
What heaven, if you be absent there?
Your glorious face illumines the sky,
And sheds ecstatic joys on high
Your love, with beams of heavenly grace,
Gladdens our guilty, fallen race;
In Sharon's lovely, blushing rose,
You deign your beauties to disclose.