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simple this test was in itself, and the more easy the duty which it prescribed; the more conspicuously was the benignity of their God revealed, and the more inexcusable was their own rebellion. What simpler test could they have chosen, than abstinence from a particular tree, however good for food and pleasant to the eyes?" What duty could be of easier performance ; seeing it did not intrench upon a single enjoyment; as they were surrounded with similar enjoyments; the Lord God having made to grow, every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food ?' What could be more condescending on his part, than the appointment of so delightful a probation? And what more wanton, more thankless, or more provoking, on theirs, than the violation of its terms?
Disobedience under such circumstances, was of an aggravated sort : but it will appear still more flagrant, from the consideration, that this very tree, whose touch was death, was fraught with salutary instruction. Placed in the midst of the garden, and often meeting the eyes of our first parents, it could hardly fail to teach them such truths as these :
That God is the Lord of all things ; and, consequently, thit man's dominion was neither absolute nor independent---that in the enjoyment of God alone, is the satisfying good of man---that in judging of good and evil, man is not to be directed by his own reason or pleasure, but by the revealed will of God---that man had not yet arrived at his highest happiness ; but was bound to expect and desire a more perfect state; yet in tbat way alone which God had appointed---that if he would escape death, he must avoid the cause of it; i. c.
sin, or the breaking out of his desires beyond those li. mits which God had assigned to them. How much further the unclouded mind of the first man might have carried his reflections on the forbidden tree; to what sublime corrceptions of the divine nature, and works, and providence, it might have led him, we, in our shattered state, with our discordant affections and obscure lights, are poorly qualified to judge. Yet, disabled as we are, by the Fall, from taking such rapid, capacious, and elevating views of whatever is tair, and good, and magnificent in the creature, and the Creator, as were competent to a sinless being, we can discern enough to persuade us, that the tree of knowledge of good and evil must have been, to innocent man, a rich source of intellectual improvement and moral joy.
The third use of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, was that of a sacramental pledge.
Our first parents were placed not only under the general obligations of moral law, but under a peculiar moral constitution, which the sovereign goodness of God superadded to their condition as accountable creatures. This constitution is ordinarily termed, the codenant of works ; by which, in the event of their adhering to the terms of their probation, the divine faithfulness was engaged to confer on themselves and on their posterity, an immortality of bliss. But, in the event of their failure, that same faithfulness was engaged to subject them and their progeny to the penalty of the law. It will be perceived, that punishment; upon the commission of sin, was a matter of course. For that a creature should rise up in rebellion against the Creator, and suffer no inconvenience on account of his crime, is a
contradiction, if not in words, yet certainly in things. Whereas the promise of eternal life was purely gratuitous ; no creature having a right to demand more than this, that so long as he continues obedient, he shall not be miserable. Nor can any good reason be assigned, why the most bigh God, if it so pleased him, may not create rational beings for a temporary existence only, and, when his purposes are fulfilled, remand them back again to nothing. The promise, therefore, of eternal life, converted the law of obedience into a pacific covenant, of which the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge, were the two sacraments ; the former being a visible document of God's faithfulness to his promise, and the latter a visible document of his faithfulness to his threatening. And thus the assurance of life or death being exhibited to our first parents, by sensible signs, they were constantly admonished of the interest staked in their hands, and of the infinitely happy or horrible issue of their probationary state.“
< See The Christian's Magazine; New York, 1807, p. 67.
INDEX TO VOL. IV.
or seen could occasion him to think of him.. 55