WE have seen in some of its features what Nature was as made, or its creation condition. We pass to its second condition, that of Unnature.1
The period of Adam's abode in Paradise, or the period of the natural and good, seems to have been brief, though it may have been much longer than some suppose. His disobedience changed his relations to God, and he could no longer abide in that free communion with Him which was the privilege of the innocent and obedient. Adam was expelled from Paradise, the sentence of death was passed upon him, and the ground was cursed.
Several points meet us here for consideration— the effects, both physical and spiritual, of Adam's sin upon himself and his posterity, its effects upon the earth as his dwelling-place, and its bearings upon the relations of the angels, both of the good and evil, to men.
1 The term is not new, though not often used. It is several times used by Dr. Bushnell (Natural and Supernatural): "The scheme of Nature is itself unstrung and mistuned to a very great degree by man's agency in it, so as to be better Unnature than Nature."
We may note first the effect of his disobedience upon Adam's own personal relation to God—his exclusion from the Garden and the Divine Presence, his knowledge of his nakedness, his fear of God, and his hiding himself, his exculpation of himself, and accusation of others. Doubtless Adam and Eve repented, and humbled themselves, and made confession of their sin; but we are not told that they were re-admitted to the Garden. There was no restoration of the early relation. They had been tried, and had failed in the trial, and it was not to be repeated. Adam and all his posterity came into the condition of the fall.
This moral condition may be briefly stated in the terms of the Scriptures. He came under "the law of sin and death." We are not called to enter into any theological discussions here as to original sin, or total depravity. The history of our race is the strongest proof that there is in us, as one has expressed it, "a persistent tendency to wrong-doing." Every man who has lived may apply to himself the words of St. Paul: "Not what I would, that do I practise, but what I hate, that I do" (Rom. 7:15, R. V.); or, as said by one of old: "I see the better and approve, but I follow the worse." Like our first parents, we are conscious of our sinfulness, are afraid, and hide ourselves from God. The spirit of disobedience that ruled in them rules in us. It is the root from which grows all manner of evil fruits, producing at last in the lawless one, contempt of all God's commandments, and open defiance of His authority.
Alienated from God, the Father, we are alienated also from one another. We reject the bonds of brotherhood, and human history becomes little more than a record of strife and bloodshed. We are so familiar with this incessant warfare that we regard it as almost normal, and speak of years of peace as exceptional years. Perhaps, indeed, there has never been a year in which the work of human slaughter has not been going on, and the highest civilisation presents the most deadly instruments of destruction.
From Eden downward, there have always been the two classes, those striving to obey God so far as His will is known to them, and the persistently disobedient. To the former, God makes Himself known more and more clearly; to the latter, He is more and more hidden. In a real sense, the Lord's words, "Let the tares and wheat grow together until the harvest," have been true of the whole history of man. There has been a progressive development of good and evil, a ripening of the tares and wheat, and the harvest will be when both are fully ripe. It is plain that such a contemporaneous moral development must take place under the conditions of our fallen nature. A man who wilfully disobeys the law of the land in one instance will more readily disobey it the second time. Those who dwell among the lawless will be strengthened in their lawlessness. And those who consciously break God's laws will not keep Him in their knowledge. Thus crime and ignorance will both increase till wickedness shall come to the full. On the other hand, he who would keep the law of God is strengthened through the companionship of those like minded and the example of their obedience. To the obedient, God reveals Himself more and more, and they go on unto perfection.
This development of evil as well as of good began immediately after the fall. We are told that the number of those walking in their own ways rapidly multiplied, and at last God "looked upon the earth, and behold it was corrupt," "the earth was filled with violence" (Gen. 6: 12, 11). But amidst the tares were some grains of wheat, some faithful ones, who walked with God, like Enoch, who were obedient, like Noah.
As Adam came in his spirit under the law of sin, so did he in his body under the law of death. The connection between sin and death is brought out clearly to view in Genesis (2:17; 3: 19), and is everywhere emphasised in the Scriptures as "the wages of sin" (Rom. 6: 23). Death prevailed indeed before Adam in the vegetable and animal realms, and must have done so unless all living things were to be immortal, which no one can suppose. A limitation of life was essential. But to death, man was not originally subject. As has been said, he was so constituted that the two elements of his humanity, body and soul, could be separated, but this separation was made dependent upon his own action—his obedience or disobedience. There was the possibility of dying, and the possibility of not dying. "Death passed upon all men for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5: 12). If Adam had not sinned, he would not have come under the law of death. Life is man's true condition, in which all the physical powers given him at Creation are in full and perfect exercise.
It is well to note the consistency with which the connection of death with sin is held throughout the Scriptures, and the emphasis put upon it (Num. 19: 11). The subjection of man to death is a universal and visible proof that he is not in his right relation to God, the Living One. As we see flowers and shrubs touched by a frost withering, so is it with the race of man. There is a blight upon it. The frost of God's anger has touched it; it withers, and dies. Thus death is a sign which all may see, that the race is under Divine displeasure, and is a continual reminder that there cannot be fulness of life so long as man remains under the law of sin. Earth disfigured and defiled with graves shows that it is still under the sway of him "who has the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb. 2:14). And its proudest mausoleums, filled with dead men's bones, witness that he is the great prince of this present world.
We may also note how, through the two conditions of men, embodied and disembodied, God has before His eye two distinct realms, and may at His pleasure transfer from one to the other. So long as the law of death which He has established continues, all must pass from the embodied and visible into the disembodied and invisible realm. This law, we are told, has been in a few instances set aside, as with Enoch and Elijah. And He has brought some from the dead, the most to die again, as Lazarus, but others, as our Lord, and probably Moses, to die no more.
Of the condition of separated souls it is not necessary here to speak. We have already seen why God in His revelations to men has preserved such silence upon this matter. But it is probable that in the realm of the departed may be several abiding places corresponding to their moral distinctions, and possibly to the several stages of redemption. Of those made members of His Body, partakers of His resurrection life, it is said that they "sleep in Jesus," and the Apostle Paul was desirous to depart, and "be with Him."
The change caused through the sentence of death was in the relation of the material forces to human life. Not yet under the law of death, all these forces were subordinate to life and man's good. To man dwelling in Eden they were not harmful; but they might become to him instruments of evil and suffering. The gentle rain might become a devastating flood, the refreshing breeze a destructive tornado, the life-giving sun a fiery furnace. The relation of these material forces to him was dependent upon his moral relation to his Creator. This we know, that if sin had not first entered Paradise, disorder, disease, and death would have found no entrance there.1
1 We are so accustomed to the universal reign of death that we can scarce think of it as not in the natural order. It is only as we see the manifold forms of disease that we can make real to ourselves what miseries sin has brought with it. Milton, in the revelation made by the archangel Michael to Adam of the future of his race, as through sin becoming subject to death, thus speaks:
"Death, thou hast seen
In its first shape on man; but many shapes
Of Death, and many are the ways that lead
To his grim cave, all dismal; yet to sense
More terrible at the entrance than within.
Some, as thou saw'st, by violent stroke shall die,
By fire, flood, famine, by intemperance more
In meats and drinks, which on the earth shall bring
"Immediately a place
Before his eyes appeared, sad, noisome, dark;
A lazar-house it seem'd, wherein were laid
Numbers of all diseased; all maladies
Of ghastly spasm, or racking torture, qualms
Of heart-sick agony, all feverous kinds,
Convulsions, epilepsies, fierce catarrhs,
Intestine stone and ulcer, colic-pangs,
Daemoniac frenzy, moping melancholy,
And moon-struck madness, pining atrophy,
Marasmus, and wide-wasting pestilence,
Dropsies, and asthmas, and joint-racking rheums.
Dire was the tossing, deep the groans. Despair
Tended the sick, busiest from couch to couch;
And over them triumphant Death his dart
Shook, but delayed to strike, though oft invoked
With vows, as their chief good, and final hope.
Sight so deform what heart of rock could long
A well-read physician of to-day might without doubt much enlarge this list. Each new stage of civilisation seems to bring with it new forms of disease, or at least modifications of the old. It is said by eminent medical men that not a perfectly healthy person lives on the earth.
A word may be said upon the bearing of the change from the natural to the unnatural on the power and activity of the angels, both good and evil. Good angels first entered at the Fall upon their ministry as helpers of those who should be heirs of salvation. They had charge to watch over them, to protect them (Ps. 91: 11). Of their watchful care and protection, which doubtless then began, the Scriptures give us many proofs.
That to evil spirits as enemies of God and His persistent opposers, the material and spiritual disorder which came with the sins of Adam opened a wide field of activity is obvious. Without ascribing to them any native power of inflicting disease or death, yet the connection of spirit and body is such that having spiritual control it were easy through indulgence of evil passions and lusts to lead to disease and death. We may well believe that it was by Satan's instigation that Cain killed his brother (John 8: 44), and that he has forwarded in every way the spirit of disobedience and of self-will, and his power increases as men become more and more alienated from God and contemptuous of His authority. The greater the spiritual disorder, the greater the Satanic power in the material realms. As we are assured by the Lord and the Apostles that the last days will be perilous days, full of disorder and strife, we may expect that the activity and power of evil spirits will then be at their highest. At this time, also, will the ministry of the good angels be most needed, and we may believe will be most fully rendered.
We turn from the sentence of death on man to the nature and degree of the changes brought by man's sin into the physical constitution of the earth. These we cannot know in detail. Of the changes made possible through the properties of matter and its new combinations enough has been said. That the earth as man's dwelling-place, and the place for his mental and spiritual training and discipline, should have its stages of change ordered by God, corresponding to the development of man's powers, physical and moral, is intrinsically probable, and in these he is called to be a co-worker with God. If Adam had been at his creation made perfect in all the departments of his being, then his dwelling-place would have been perfect in all its adaptations to him, and so incapable of being changed; but we are told that while yet in Eden, he was bidden to "subdue the earth," clearly implying that it was to be brought to a higher condition by his labours upon it. He was not, as some now say, the creature or product of his environment, for the dwelling is for the man, not the man for the dwelling. The physical is subordinate to the moral, and therefore the environment is changed as the Divine purpose in him progresses; and doubtless the earth has long been and is now daily in process of preparation for the time when, the moral being perfected, all shall be made new.
That the curse pronounced upon the ground, that it should bring forth thorns and thistles, and that in toil man should eat of it all the days of his life, was in consequence of Adam's sin, is plain from all parts of the Scriptures, and especially from the expression of the Apostle Paul: "The creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself, also, shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption. . . . For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in paintogether until now" (Rom. 8: 20-22, R.V.). Whether the Apostle includes under the term'' creation'' other worlds than ours, is here unimportant; but it is most reasonable to think that it is confined to our earth, as standing in closest relation to man, and thus sharing in his good or ill. The expressions " vanity," "bondage of corruption," "travailing and groaning in pain," set forth a physical condition of the earth very unlike that at the first when God pronounced all that He made "good." But the force of these expressions we can only imperfectly understand. There are many forces in nature active beyond our ken, and of whose operation we know only through their sensible results. We see the disorder, but know not its causes.