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THE FALL

THE FALL

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY THOMAS ARNOLD, D.D.


GEN iii. 15.

And I wiU put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy
§eed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shdU brvMe
his heel.
BY THOMAS ARNOLD, D.D.


GEN iii. 15.

And I wiU put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy
§eed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shdU brvMe
his heel.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Oct 04, 2013
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THE FALL BY THOMAS AR OLD, D.D.

GE iii. 15. And I wiU put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy §eed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shdU brvMe his heel. These words are a part of the sentence passed after the Fall upon the three parties most concerned in it : the woman, the man, and the serpent. I have said before, that there is much in these early chapters of Genesis which we do not imderstand, and which it is any thing but wise to dwell on and argue from minutely, just as if we did understand them. But amidst passages of this sort there are others not only clear, but to be numbered with the most instructive of the whole Scripture^ for the large and most profitable view which they afford of the condition of mankind. Of this kind are those verses of which the text is one ; the judgment passed upon mankind and on their tempter. These venes offer much to call for our attention, and suggest two ways in particular of considering them ; one which I may call the moral view of them, taking them as they show the most important points in our actual condition ; the other relating especially to the verse which I have chosen for my text, and showing forth by this earliest example that general character of Scripture prophecy which runs through the whole Bible. First, then, let us consider the whole passage from the

10 THE FALL.

fourteenth verse to the nineteenth, as leading us to observe some most important points in the actual condition of mankind. ow it will be clear, I think, on a moment's consideration, that the points here dwelt on are precisely those which render it impossible for the himian race, taken as a body, to enjoy upon earth either phjsical happiness or intellectual; in other words, to be either perfectly easy and comfortable in their outward condition, or perfectly able to gratify that desire of knowledge which the strong and cultivated understanding feels so earnestly. That is, in other words yet again, God has so ordered the course of nature in this world now become sinful, that mankind shall be unable to find happiness in those things in which alone their corrupted nature would seek it, the pleasures of the body or of the understanding. It cannot be doubted that the corruption of our nature consists in this very thing, that we are careless of God, and seek our happiness from His creatures, either from ourselves or others. But He has ordered things so, that this search can never generally succeed ; if mankind will not seek their happiness from God, there is a law of their condition which declares that they shall not find it elsewhere. ow the enjoyment of this happiness in worldly things is mainly hindered, as we can all see, by the necessity of labour and of death. The diflBculty of providing for our bodily wants obliges us to labour ; we can neither be fed nor clothed without exertion ; without such a degree of exertion as exceeds the limits of natural and agreeable exercise. This necessity bearing alike upon both sexes, although in a diflferent way, — imposing upon the one, labour and anxiety abroad, on the other, labour and anxiety at home in the care of the family, manifestly has a tendency not only to abridge what are commonly called the comforts and enjoyments of life, but also, by denying us leisure, interferes no less certainly with the gratification

THE FALL. 11

of our understanding by the pursuit of knowledge. We see that the great bulk of mankind have no leisure to improve themselves to any high degree intellectually. But again, when man was sentenced to death, it implied that his body and all his faculties should have a natural tendency to decay and wear out after a certain time. Adam may have lived many years after the Fall, yet it is no less true, that the work of death began in him from the very moment when the sentence was uttered that he should die. And so in us all, though we may live out our full term of four-score years, yet death is working in us, in some measure, from the very hour that we are bom. It is true, that when we compare one part of our life with another, it may be said, as I observed not long since, that life is working in the young in comparison with the old ; there is in youth imdoubtedly so much of growth and vigour. Yet even in youth there are signs of death's working ; the disorders which befall infancy and childhood, even the occasional pains, sickness, weaknesses, to which the healthiest body is liable, all show that this wonderful machine of our earthly frames is not designed to last for ever ; that it has tendencies to decay and disorder which cannot even be delayed for four-score years without much self-restraint and care. ow this construction of our bodies necessarily limits our power of enjoyment, no less in mind than in body. Even had we leisure to follow after knowledge to our hearts' desire, yet the very imperfections of our bodily frames oblige us to moderate our pursuit of it, or else often cut us oflF in the midst of it. Thus the span of human wisdom is necessarily limited ; for if we so redouble our efforts as to anticipate in middle life the full wisdom and knowledge of age, yet these very efforts are in themselves exhausting, and only bring on earlier the period of decay. I may also mention that most painful consciousness which must beset us all, that at that

12 THE FAIX.

period of life when we have begun to collect large stores of experience and knowledge, when our feculties are at the highest from full exercise, and we have at last gained large materials to enable them to advance yet further, — precisely at that time the course of decay begins, and the added experience of longer life is more than counterbalanced by the gradual weakening of the faculties ; so that we actually live to see our grasp upon truth become less and less firm, and our distance from perfect intellectual happiness become actually every year greater and greater. So surely does that imperfect and mixed state- of the outward world, which obliges us to labour, and that doom of death upon ourselves which is all our life long making preparations for its full execution, render it actuaUy impossible for mankind as a body to find happiness in Crod's creatures, if they will not seek it in Him. These are things which it does not appear that any power or art of man can remove ; the very increase of the numbers of mankind being in itself a constant provision to keep up the necessity of labour. And thus considered, as every day and every hour show us how really the sentence recorded in Genesis is actually pressing upon us all, so we shall imderstand how exactly calculated it is to effect its object ; and we shall gain a true notion of those points in the constitution of things which some have cavilled at, while others have been so foolish as to deny their existence, if we view them, not as an arrangement of the Divine benevolence to produce happiness, but rather as an appointment of Divine justice purposely made to render the earthly happiness of sinful creatures a thing impossible. I think it is most useful so to contemplate human life,

although the view thus offered may be painful. Yet I know not that it need or ought to be painful : for although happiness in God's creatures, if viewed as apart from Him,

THE FALL. 13

is truly impossible, yet happiness through Him is not impossible, not even in this world. It is very just to look upon life as a scene of trial, and not as a scene of enjoyment. But those very dark pictures of man's misery which are sometimes given are not just if applied to Christians : it is by no means true that life is to them unhappy under any circumstances whatever ; while imder circimistances, it is, and may well be exceedingly happy. For to Christians, whatever pain might be otherwise felt from labour and from decay, is constantly made up by hope ; and the very circumstance that they have a more abiding city and a better treasure than any on earth, while it enables them to enjoy most thankfully those good things which God gives them here, takes away also that otherwise sickening disappointment with which we should else see them one by one vanish. To this restoration of happiness, this undoing of the evil done by the tempter at the beginning, the words of the text are in their highest sense no doubt applicable. And they afford a good example, as I said, of that general character of Scripture prophecy which runs through the whole Bible, and in them it' may be shown how those prophecies generally may also be imderstood and applied. In their first and literal sense they are true and perfectly intelligible. They describe the relations existing between man and a class of inferior and noisome animals ; whom he can destroy or keep imder, but who are able in

their turn to inflict some pain and injury on him. But in proportion as our notions of other parts of the story of the Fall become raised above the literal meaning, so also must they be raised with respect to this particular verse. The instant that we understand by the serpent that tempted the woman not a literal serpent, but a being morally evil, by whose arts the world has been ruined, then of course we

U THE FALL,

understand by the serpent between whose seed and the woman's seed there was to be perpetual enmity, that same being of moral evil with whom man's life throughout the history of the world would be perpetually struggling. And when we read, that in this struggle, the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head while it should bruise his heel, it is no less clear, that here also the literal sense of the words head and heel is no longer to be thought of; but that in this great contest between man and evil, the triumph should be with man, although it should not be won but at the price of some loss and suffering. ow taking it in this sense, partially, and up to a certain point, the fulfilments of it have been many. All those good men of whom the Scripture speaks, from righteous Abel downwards, — all who by God's grace lived in Ood's faith and fear, all foimd that in their struggle with evil they were conquerors ; that it was good for them, and not bad, that they had ever been bom. And all foimd also that, if saved, they were saved as by fire ; their experience could enough tell them that evil was not without power to do them hurt. Yet it is no less manifest that none of these cases came up to the full extent of the comfort required. At

the Fall, evil had triimiphed over the whole race of mankind; the state of things had become evil, which had before been good. If evil that had done this were to be crushed and destroyed, it must be by the restoration of all things ; the human race must be recovered, which in its first struggle had been lost. And this could only be by a fjEur greater and more perfect victory over evil than ever man had won ; by such a triimiph over labour and over death as should indeed show that the latter end of the human race should be better than its beginning. Such a triumph was achieved by Jesus Christ, the proof of it being His resurrection. For thus it was shown

THE FALL. 15

manifestly that death had been overcome ; that evil had been vanquished in all its parts, outward and inward ; that man was again restored to his original righteousness, and that being in the person of Christ no longer lost to God, but one with God, suffering and death could have no dominion over him, but that his portion was the fulness of joy at God's right hand for ever. In this same manner it is, that so many passages of the Old Testament are applied to Christ in the ew Testament, which, taken in their original place, seem to refer to a subject much less exalted. And the reason of the application of them to Christ is this : that whereas all prophecy is addressed to the hopes of the good, and to the fears of the evil, so the perfect fulfilment of it, that is, the perfect satisfying of these hopes, and the perfect realizing those fears, is to be found only in the perfect triumph of good, and the perfect destruction of evil ; of both which we have the pledge in the resmrection of Jesus Christ, and in His exaltation to the right hand of God, thence to

come at the end of the world to judge the quick and the dead. So that if we would fully satisfy the highest sense of all prophecy, if we would give it its entire fulfilment, we must seek for it necessarily in Him in whom all the promises of God, as St. Paul says, are found to be true ; who being alone perfectly righteous, has alone shown to us, by His resurrection from the dead, that good shall perfectly triumph, and the restoration of the seed of the woman shall be complete. This of course might furnish us with matter to engage not minutes only, but hours and days. I can but notice now, in conclusion, how it illustrates the great stress always laid by the Apostles upon the fact of Christ's resurrection. That fact was the real fulfilment of all prophecy, the great assurance of all hope ; the great proof that evil

16 THE FALL.

w should not triumph, that the serpent's head should be bruised indeed. Other events, — lesser mercies, earthly deliverances, — are in part the subject of prophecy, and in part its fulfilment. But its language, the language of hope in God, naturally goes beyond these ; it assumes a tone of unmixed confidence, it speaks of such an over-measure of good as £eu: surpasses man's virtue on the one hand, or his earthly prosperity on the other. And therefore, it seeks elsewhere its real fulfilment : it tarries not on those lower heights which would receive it on its first ascent from the valley, but ascends and aspires continually to the mountain of

Gtxl, to rest only at His right hand, when it has found Him who is there for ever exalted, Jesus Christ, both Ood and man.

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