Human history opens with God and man in blessed intercourse. The work of creation is finished. Adam, made in the image of God, dwells in Eden, and here his spiritual education begins. For him God planted a garden in Eden, the land of delight, in which "He made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food," thus showing His love and care for His creature. Adam from the very first was admitted into personal intercourse with his Creator. He knew that he was not alone in the garden, — there was Another, a higher Being, of whose presence he was sensible. He felt himself under the control of a personal will. The command was given him: "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it." The grounds of this command he probably did not understand; but he had the inward assurance that it was not arbitrary; it was given in love. How adequate was his
conception of this Being, we need not here ask: it was enough that he knew Him as his Creator and Lord; One who had rightful authority over him, and to whom unreserved obedience was due.
Under what sensible forms God may have manifested Himself to Adam during this period, or in what manner made known His will, we are not told. (Gen. iii. 8.) It has been a current belief in the Church, that there was in the garden some permanent visible symbol of His Presence, perhaps identical with the cloud of Glory, or Shechinah, of later times; and the mention of "the Cherubim" seems to confirm this, since they re-appear in the Jewish Tabernacle and Temple as well-known symbols of the Divine Presence. (Gen. iii. 24.) "I will meet with thee," said God to Moses, "and I will commune with thee . . . from between the Cherubim." It is not unreasonable to believe, that from between the Cherubim in the garden He communed with Adam, declaring His will; and that "the flaming sword," or rather "the infolding fire," was the visible sign of His inhabitation.
It is thought by some to be inconsistent with the spirituality of God, that He should manifest Himself to men under any sensible forms. But when we remember that the great end of all His actings is the revelation of His Son, God manifest in the flesh, "in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," we see that His early manifestation of Himself to men through visible symbols, — the pillar of fire, the Glory, — as recorded in the Old Testament, is in perfect harmony with His purpose to reveal Himself in His Son. The local and sensible manifestations of Himself in Eden, at Sinai, and in Jerusalem, were not unworthy of Him whom "the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain," for they had their ground in the constitution of man as both material and spiritual; and all pointed forward to Him who is "the visible Image of the invisible God," and to the time when "the earth shall shine with His glory."
Very brief was the period of man's innocence. Adam was tempted and fell. The root of his sin was doubt as to the love of God, — doubt inspired by the serpent; and the result was the lifting up of his own will against the will of God in an act of positive disobedience. Through this his relation to God was radically changed: the state of unconscious innocence gave place to a state of conscious rebellion. In Adam the race came under "the law of sin and death." To convince man of his sinfulness, to awaken in him the desire for redemption, and to make known to him the nature and mode of this redemption, must be henceforth the primary object of the Divine teaching. God will not only be known as the Supreme Ruler, but also as the Holy One who abhors sin, as the Righteous Judge who punishes unrighteousness, and as the Merciful Father who forgives the repentant.
These aspects of God's character we may, therefore, expect to see made prominent in His subsequent dealings with sinful and disobedient men. Man is to be taught the evil that is in him, and which finds its chief expression in the will; and, therefore, he must be put under the law of righteousness. It is now a question of authority, of supremacy of will. Man must be taught the limitations of his nature, and his dependence. But the obedience God seeks is not the outward submission of fear, it is the joyful obedience of love; and, therefore, with the assertion of His authority, He shows Himself, also, merciful and forgiving. Sin He will not spare, but He will give His Son to die for the sinful. But mercy and forgiveness are idle words to him who knows not that he has sinned, who has no consciousness of guilt. To awaken and deepen in men the sense of sin that they may seek deliverance, is now God's primary purpose; and, to this end, men must be made to feel that they are dealing with a righteous personal Ruler. The goal to which human history from this time is moving forward, is the redemption of manhood from sin and the curse, and the establishment of a Kingdom of universal obedience, — the period when "His will shall be done in earth, as it is in heaven."