What Was The Estate Which We Lost?
The Scriptures teach us that the human race was created by the fiat of God. From the dust of the earth, He sovereignly created a man. God’s breath became his life. Later, He took from that man’s side one of his bones and from it created the first woman. They were holy and innocent. In a beautiful garden, growing plentifully with fruits and nuts for their food, among which was also a tree that was called the “Tree of Life,” and another called the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,” God placed this newly created pair. He beheld them there, and pronounced them “very good” (Gen. 1:31).
Just what God’s plans were for these beautiful human creatures, must be gathered from what He stated to them, after they had been installed in the garden. The Scriptures declare that He blessed them and said: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:28). From this, we gather that some form of toil was to be their privilege, together with dominion over the earth, with family relations, and, from the “blessing” conferred and statements that God visited them from time to time, we infer that they enjoyed perfect fellowship with Him, and holy communion.
There can be no doubt but that this first man and first woman were godlike in their appearance, and in their characters, for the Book declares that God created them “in his image.”
It is difficult for us in these days, when Sin has had so many thousands of years’ sway over the population of the earth, even to imagine what the beauty and nobility were of that couple in the garden. All that we have ever looked upon in the way of human beings, are wrecks of the once glorious creation of God. These first creatures were beautiful, innocent and holy. They had never known the taint of sin. Their hearts had only known the presence of the Spirit of God. Their imaginations had never been darkened by evil thoughts, and they had no heredity with which to be blighted. Hatred had never heated their blood, nor fear blanched their faces, or affected their heart beat. No weakness marred their bodies’ beauty, no poison checked their blood’s rich flow. No pain had shot athwart their nerves, and no taxing toil had warped bone or muscle from its divine symmetry. No pain or worry or care had furrowed their brows, or racked their brains with anxiety. There they were, fresh as the full blown roses at their feet, and god-like, as their Maker would be, were He flesh. Innocence beamed from every virgin glance of their eyes, and holiness made rich abode within their breasts.
Although they were to subdue the earth, and have dominion over it, which implies toil, yet we cannot understand that it was to be anything like the grinding, sweating, exhausting service that the race has known since sin came into the world. Some kind of employment, some kind of toil, he it suitable and enjoyable, is a divine privilege. Work is far from being a curse, if one is not compelled to labor beyond his strength or time, and is not goaded to it with fear and compulsion. Indeed, in many ways it is one of the greatest blessings that can come to one, and to the healthy human is often a sheer joy. But the kind of work that this weary, sinful old world has known, for the most part, under the grinding, goading, nerve-exhausting, brain paralyzing pressure of slavery, or poverty, or military necessity, or a thousand other burdens, is a million times removed from the happy; leisurely toil, out in the open air, naming the animals, plucking the luscious fruits, weaving a bower of twigs and leaves for nightly shelter from the dews, that we may well suppose was the lot of the innocent inhabitants of the Garden of Eden. The animals knew no ferocity, but were tame with divine placidity. There were no scorching suns, nor freezing winds. No storms; no lightning flash laden with death; no earthquake to swallow its shuddering victims; no simoons; no dashing ocean wave clutching at a suffocated throat; no prowling bandits with hands of violence; no shrieks and woes and distress of a city; no scream of bullet; no flash of murderous knife; no wrecks of commerce, bank, or trade; no siren fire whistle with its midnight conflagration and ruin or explosion of death-dealing bomb. Their toll was a pleasure; their care of the Garden and animals a delight; their food plentifully supplied at hand; their joy in one another’s company perfect; their rest sweet and dreamless.
God evidently planned for them some sort of continued family life. They were happy in a perfect mutual affection, their united interests brought joy the livelong day. There was no danger; no fear; no regrets; no remorse; no repining; no burdens to pursue them to repose; no care to drive sleep from their eyes. They were happy; they had every need supplied; contentment filled their hearts; their desires were all gratified; there were no sickness, aches, pains or illness. So far as we Can gather from the entire record, there was to be no death. Very probably, God intended that there was to be no old age, as we know it now. Children were to be born Without pain, and grow up to an ever youthful manhood. Eternal youth; eternal beauty; eternal health; eternal life; it was all theirs!
If any of our readers object to this picture as being too easy, too soft, too indulgent, to be desirable, let us remind him that just such a goal is the very one that all science, all philanthropy, all schemes of government, trade and trades unions, commerce and labor, are seeking for. The world is endeavoring to secure the very Eden blessedness that is depicted in the first chapter of Genesis as being the lot of the first pair in the garden, before they fell. But the world is endeavoring to secure it without. God. It is feverishly following science, and philosophy, and mechanics, and inventions, preparing for itself a better world, as it Supposes. But, as long as the world leaves out the solution of the sin question, it will have the very thing in its so-called better world that still will ruin it.
Another divine. empowerment that was accorded to the first man and the first woman was dominion. Just how this was to be exercised, it is difficult to say. But happy authority over plant life and animal life was conferred upon them by their Creator. This would surely prove to be another source of interesting employment. What a’ wonderful garden. of wonderful possibilities, was given by this wonderful Creator, to this wonderful new creation called man!
But we have only just begun to enumerate the values of the “estate” that was theirs. Think of the daily communion and happy fellowship that they had with God. All that Moses in the mount, or Elijah at the brook Cherith, or Daniel meditating in the lion’s den, or praying upon the banks of the river Hiddekel, or David under the open sky at evening thrumming his harp and singing Messianic psalms, or St. John on Patmos isle, or St. Paul caught up to the third heaven, or Savonarola amid the passion of popular public discourse, or Fenelon in nightly meditation, or Madam Guyon singing to the dripping walls of her prison, or George FOX, or John Wesley, or John Fletcher, or anyone else ever knew of the joys of God, and the benedictions of hallowed friendship, and the presence of the Creator were all theirs, and, we confidently believe, infinitely more! God talked with them, as with a familiar friend, in the cool of the day. They had no sin; they had no carnality; they had no hereditary weaknesses; they had no lust in their blood or poison in their veins; perfect joy, perfect light, perfect holiness, perfect innocence, perfect emotion swelled their breasts as they fellowshipped the great Creator! Tender melting love animated them, while the sweet fire of the Divine Presence filled their beings! What an “estate” they had! If they had given God the obedience that He had a right to expect, that “estate” would have been perpetual. And their “estate” had it been handed down, would have been ours. When they lost their “estate” they also lost us our “estate.” When they fell, we fell.
“Oh, what a fall was that, my countrymen! Then you, and I, and all of us, fell down.”
This beautiful pair lost this wondrous “estate.” They lost, through sin, the garden with its fruits, and its Tree of Life. They lost the joy and the happiness and the leisurely toil. Storms burst in upon them where calm had been. The very beasts went mad with ferocity, and inaugurated the bloody orgy of relentless reprisal. The lightnings fell and the pitiless rains poured down, where before had been the gentle dews. Instead of a beneficent Creator blessing and fellowshipping with them in the Cool of the day, there was an avenging angel with a drawn sword barring the way to the Tree of Life. Innocence gone, holiness gone, dominion gone, God gone! With guilty hearts, with fear-racked brains, with carnality eating into the vitals of their souls, with bodies clothed in the reeking skins of slain beasts, they flee, hand in hand, from the beautiful garden, now wrecked by their sin, and face briars, thorns, pain, sorrow, the curse of God, the guilt of remorse, and the stony paths of a sin-ruined world. They had lost their “estate.” They had lost our “estate.”
Does the reader express wonderment, that so great a calamity could result from such a seemingly insignificant offense? The chief answer to that must ever be that human beings are illy constituted for determining the awful consequences, or the needful deserts, of a sin against God. Our birth into sin, and close connection with sin, and unhappy experiences with it, though now we are saved from it, disqualify us from passing judgment on the value of even the smallest offense. We have been warped and twisted by sin, our contact with it, and visions of it, till we have lost our sense of its just deserts, and the relation that it bears to all other matters. We can only accept the Eden catastrophe as it stands, transcending human reason and experience, and admit that a seemingly small disobedience to God was enough to wreck a world, throw all life, vegetable, animal and human, out of its divine orbit, and entail a universe of misery upon all its inheritors.
Does it seem to be unfair, that subsequent generations should be involved in the sin and fall of the first pair? We can only reply by saying that the same law is still in effect, and that pre-natal influence dictates much of weal or woe in the lives of people today. Neither can we lay the whole blame, today, upon the tragical disobedience of our first parents. While the woeful results are still visited upon us, nevertheless, while we come into this world with a bias toward evil, we also come with an ability not to yield to it if we but choose not to do so. The same calamitous, tragical occurrence that took place in the Garden of Eden, takes place today in the life of every human being, when he reaches the years of accountability. While the choice toward sin is easier for us each to make, than would have been the choice toward God and righteousness, nevertheless, not one of us is compelled to take it, and in the last analysis, each one, finally, deliberately, chose, just as Eve did, to take the disobedient course. At the threshold of the adultage of each human being, there is again re-enacted the tragedy of the Garden. Hence, it ill-becomes any of us, to sit by and repine at Eve’s fatal choice, when, despite that choice, we might have escaped, had we not been guilty of making the same choice that she did.
The question of why God created the human race, when His foreknowledge apprised Him that it would choose the wrong, and refuse the right, is shrouded in the mystery of omniscience. To the average thinker, looking back over the long record of world misery, woe, suffering and ruin, and the inevitable damnation of countless millions, it all seems to be incomprehensible; and it appears inexplicable that God should have created them in the first place. However, this writer, though unable to throw a ray of light upon it, or to satisfy his own reasoning powers with any suitable explanation, nevertheless, has a profound conviction that when the segment of God’s dealings that we can behold, and slightly comprehend, is fitted into the rest of the circle of His achievements, many of which we cannot comprehend, we will find that His ways were just and perfect, and that the Judge of all the earth has always done wisely and right. We can trust Him, where we Cannot trace Him, and believe Him where we cannot understand.
The tragical fate, however, of the first experience of the human race with sin, carries with it, to the thoughtful, a most appalling warning. When so great a catastrophe, involving not only themselves, but all animate and inanimate creation, and including unborn generations to the latest hour of the world’s history, could result from one disobedience to God, what a fearful effect, though hidden from our eyes, must every sin that is ever committed, carry in its wake!
We feel certain that Christians have too lightly esteemed sin. Secure, as we fancy ourselves to be, under the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we do not hate and abhor sufficiently the dread monster that effected all this ruin. Sometimes, God’s children toy with sin, and just skim the sin line in their daily living. Sometimes they break over that line a bit, and then recover themselves by penitence and prayer. Often, the whole lives of some Christians are a constant zigzag, first over the line for a few hours, or it may be moments and then back to forgiveness and reclamation; thence, in a few weeks, to be over the line again. Some never have acquired a genuine’ abhorrence for the awful thing that brought the fearful collapse to the “good” creation of the good God. Some live for years with a bit of regret stirring their hearts because of the “pleasures of sin” that they were compelled to give up, in order to be saved. One of the great needs of this present hour is a mighty tide of hatred for sin to sweep the Christian church. What a gracious effect a tidal wave of sin-abhorrence would have upon the rank and file of God’s militant army in this world. What clearing of the mind from semi-sinful thoughts. What frenzied Steeling of the soul against the Subtle chill and coolness of sin’s approach. What cultivating of holy fires, to drive away the fatal damps that indicate the unseen presence of the enemy of God and man. What tender watchings of one another, that we might assist in avoiding the proximity, of that which proved so fatal to the perfect world that God had placed in the keeping of the first pair. What a ministry, a mighty wave of sin-detestation would generate. With freedom from the secular affairs of the world, and leisure to devote oneself to the affairs of the Kingdom of God, which is the privilege of the ministry, what agonizings before the throne of God such a sense of hatred for sin would bring. How ministers would cultivate the intense presence of God. How they would watch their own hearts and lives. How they would travel from door to door among their people and pray and exhort the members of their flock. How they would fast and pray, and agonize over a backslider. How they would yearn over him, and “hate the sin that made him mourn,” and exercise their faith, till Christ again was formed in him. How seriously they would meet and mingle with one another. With sin’s awfulness staring them in the face, and with an avenging Adversary on their heels with uplifted weapons of destruction, and with a consciousness of the brevity of time, its golden moments slipping through their leisurely fingers, and with the hour of death swiftly approaching, to end all opportunity of labor for their lost and dying fellows, they would not, we apprehend, spend their time in idle jest, or senseless repartee, or inane banter, or useless badinage, but in prayer and serious cultivation of their powers of usefulness, they would fellowship one another and cheer each other on, as fellow soldiers meeting for a moment in the lull of the conflict, encourage one another again to attack the foe. And how such a minister would preach I Much of the lack of interest in delivered discourse is because the preacher feels no impending crisis weighing down his heart, no moments freighted with life or death tugging at his soul. But if he possessed a heart crushed beneath a sense of abhorrence for sin, with visions of its assault upon the people for whom he must give an account, with certain knowledge, oftentimes, that the fell monster has, but yesterday, borne off some of the dear lambs of his flock, he would wait for the hour of preaching like soldiers wait for the “zero hour” in times of battle, he would mount his pulpit with a throb of agony trembling in his breast, he would preach “as a dying man, to dying men.” He could not be uninteresting if he would. No man bowed with the agony of a crisis-hour, and speaking the truth of God with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, can fail to move human hearts. Again there would sweep over the Church the days of mighty preaching. A mighty preacher is one who is possessed of a mighty, throbbing, burning, burdensome message, and in pain to be delivered. Then, plow-boys, artisans, sheep-herders, shoe-clerks, soldiers, business men, anybody, can do mighty preaching. Then, again, would roll the tide of marvelous revivals. Not one week campaigns, nor two week efforts; but prolonged, interesting, vital, bewitching, fervent garnering times from a white harvest field.
Oh, that now, we might have such a wave of sin-abhorrence possess God’s people. That now, it might begin in you, reader, as we trust it has already begun in the writer of these lines. Let us precipitate it in the name of the Master, who, because of His hatred for it, went through Gethsemane and Golgotha, in His combat with it.