|Vol. VII, No. 4
Tamuz 5609, July 1849
The Proposed Assembly
On The Formation Of The Union
Of The Congregations Of
(Exposition Of The Divine Plan For The Government Of Man, Continued.)
The object in creating this earth, was obviously to stock it with myriads of beings to whom their Creator would dispense his bounties, according as He should capacitate each of the recipients to partake of them.
To man, as the chief of those beings, was to be allotted, not only superior enjoyments and happiness here; but a higher and more blissful hereafter was to be proffered to him, for which the other creatures appear to have been neither qualified nor intended.
In order to induce man to become a candidate for that higher state of existence, the divine attributes were made known to him, that through witnessing their beneficent operation on the creation, as doubtless was explained to him, he might be awakened to, and impressed with a sense of those sublime elementary truths and principles that form the proper aliment for his soul, and which are inaccessible to any but a spiritual nature.
The emotion the display of so much goodness would create in his breast; the swelling notes that struck his ear, as the feathered choristers poured forth their morning song, as of thanksgiving; and the other evidences that presented themselves of the dumb creatures even not being totally unconscious of a Benefactor to whom they owed their pleasurable feelings, would no doubt incite the first man likewise to adore the great and good Author of all he saw and felt, and dispose him to devote his time wholly in meditating on his beneficence.
But as, during his sojourn here, the attending to his earthly wants would preclude man from being able to employ his thoughts solely on ethereal contemplations, the seventh day* was already set apart, sanctified as the Sabbath, or day of rest, and specially consecrated to the <<204>>holy, pleasurable, and soul-sustaining occupation of dwelling on the divine attributes, and preserving the remembrance of the revealed unity of Him who had created the heavens and the earth.
There remained yet another want to be supplied for enabling man fully to perform the part assigned him when made in the likeness of his Maker.
By contemplating the beneficence extended to the creatures below him, he comprehended, that he, too, must mercifully and beneficently use the dominion given him over them; but, though a grateful duty to perform, this was far from being sufficient to satisfy his cravings for objects upon and for whom he might exercise the faculty conferred upon him, and dispense higher degrees of beneficence than those creatures were capable of appreciating.
The first man was solitary in his kingdom! He had no kindred nature to whom he might impart his joyous sensations, when meditating on the immeasurable goodness of his Creator. He wanted a companion on whom to lavish loving-kindness and tenderness; one, over whose happiness and well-being he might unwearingly watch; who could sympathize with him, and reciprocate his feelings, hold sweet converse on heavenly things, and join him in daily offering the flowings of a grateful heart to the Source of the gushing happiness he experienced. “But for Adam there was not found a help meet for him.”*
This want, which had been foreseen, was speedily supplied;† and when presented with her whose company rendered all that in nature was beautiful to appear yet more charming—enhancing tenfold his previous blessings, he perceived at once, how well sorted was her nature to his, and he rapturously exclaimed, This is, indeed, a help meet for me! a second but far fairer self!
From the lips of Adam, the first mother of the human race would learn all that he himself had been taught. Conducted by him, the wonders and beauties of the creation are pointed out to her. Her admiration excited, expresses itself in her sweet musical tones, renewing in him the sensations he felt when first receiving the instructions he was now imparting to his fair partner.‡ Traversing the extensive precincts of Eden, they reach the midst in which are placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.§ There the husband relates the divine permission to eat freely of every tree of the garden, <<205>>the tree of the knowledge of good and evil alone excepted; with the warning, that on the day he eat thereof he should surely die.
At the conclusion of Letter IV., this command was adverted to as being given to test the obedience of the first pair, as the fruit of the education they had received. It had, however, the farther object of instructing them on things that, as yet, had not been taught them.
Up to this point, the divine attributes and their beneficent operation, had been fully disclosed, for the purpose of awakening the soul to the beauties and harmonies of the creation, and to a sense of the benevolence that actuated the Creator in calling the whole into existence.
The foundation thus laid, for inspiring love, creating faith, and instilling a proper fear, as grounds for inducing a cheerful obedience to the commands of his Maker, had prepared man for the next and most important step in his education.
The tree of life; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil;* the serpent’s seducing Eve from her duty;† the sentence pronounced upon the man and woman, and upon their deceiver, even when taken literally, convey lessons not to be misunderstood by the meanest capacity. For they plainly inculcate the obligation of unhesitatingly obeying whatever our Maker commands, without stopping presumptuously to question their propriety. It warns us, likewise, of the fatal consequences attending the deviating from the strict line of duty, however plausible the reasons we give ourselves for doing so.
Divine wisdom is apparent, as having inspired the recording of so instructive a lesson in terms suited to the comprehension of an infant’s mind; yet, we are not forbidden to endeavour, in a proper spirit, to sound the profound depths of this most important portion of the revealed divine economy; and if, in treating it, resort be had to the considering of the principles it involves as clothed in allegories, a mode frequently used in the Scriptures for similar purposes, the same conclusions will, nevertheless, present themselves as though the whole had been taken literally.
The life led by the first pair, while in a state of innocence, was doubtless calculated to give them a foretaste of heavenly bliss; but that this could not be the universal nor constant lot of any portion of their progeny, with which the earth was to be replenished, could not but be foreseen by infinite Prescience.
It has been already noticed, that, in the creation, good and evil,<<206>> physical and moral, are mingled; the former, however, greatly predominating.
The contrasts continually presented by this constitution of things, appear to have been ordained, in order the more strongly to impress man with the sublimity and beauty of the elementary truths and principles that form the attributes of the godhead. For this, probably, was the faculty given to man, that, through the free will bestowed on him, he might, if perversely disposed, deviate from the straight line of his duty,—might inflict evils on himself and on his fellow-men! whence, when collected together in the social state, contests and struggles would arise calling for their energies, and preventing life from stagnating;—giving occasion, too, for appeals to Heaven’s justice, as the sole remaining hope to obtain redress for wrong committed upon each other; thus affording a powerful incentive to keep Him in remembrance who reigns supreme over all flesh.
Be means of these contrasts, man becomes more vividly impressed with the value and beauty of the principles founded on the divine attributes; for justice is more accurately appreciated by its reverse, injustice, being experienced,—vice appears more hideous by the contemplation of the charms of virtue,—purity of thoughts and conduct more loved by being compared with impurity, as exhibited in the disgusting forms accompanying man’s moral degradation.
Thus the soul, even here, would imbibe and become disciplined in the elements of that purity and holiness which fit it for a spiritual existence.
Again, in the uncertainty of seasons,—the war of the elements,—the throws of the earth, threatening by earthquakes to shatter it to atoms,—the hostility of animals, one kind preying upon another,—though all framed in wisdom, and on the broad basis of universal benevolence and justice, are more especially intended to warn man, that, notwithstanding his supremacy on earth, he is himself dependent upon and accountable to Him who has so distinguished him above all other creatures; to remind him, that He, who from nothing had called a universe into existence, could again reduce it to its original nothingness; that, dispensing his bounties was a prodigal hand, He likewise can, and does frequently, withhold them, in order, that when perishing, body and soul, for want of his countenance and support, we may be preserved from presumptuously imagining we can live apart from Him, or dispense with his care and guidance.
The possibility of man’s falling into this, to him the most fatal of errors, had not been overlooked by his Maker. It was foreknown that <<207>>the freedom of thought and action conferred upon him, would, when perverted to ill uses, not only produce his misery here, but likewise cause his spiritual death. Hence the parental solicitude evinced for imbuing him with faith in the wisdom and goodness of God, as man’s most effectual safeguard against the committing of so serious an error; for, holding fast by faith, he would, through love and fear unitedly operating upon him, adhere to the commands and instruction of his Maker,—avoiding all acts, and even thoughts, that would compromise his happiness here, and his soul’s existence hereafter.
To Adam, instruction upon these high truths might have been, and probably was, conveyed in terms similar in substance, but infinitely superior to any in man’s humble power to command, for explaining this important portion of the divine economy.
Taking the relation given in the Scriptures as figurative, Eden may be supposed to represent an epitome of the earth, with its inhabitants, of all kinds, collected together, and constituted, from their origin, as they are now found to be. The beneficence of the Creator would there be made manifest to the first man, in that which was evidently good, as in that apparently, and by short-sighted mortals, deemed evil. The planting of the tree of the knowledge, of good and evil, in the midst of the garden, implying, that in the beautiful and more extensive Eden—the world—evil, in accordance with the divine plan, is an ingredient necessarily mixed up with good.
Holding fast by faith, man, when contemplating the discrepancies that on all sides presented themselves, would never, for a moment, question the wisdom and goodness that had so willed them. As soon as the thought entered his mind, that the creation might have been constructed upon a wiser and juster plan,—so soon as he foolishly and querulously finds fault with that which it has pleased his Maker to establish, that instant is he spiritually dead! He has separated himself from his God, by thinking unworthily of Him,—and ends, by even hating Him that formed him! Hence, he will neither desire, nor be capable to hold communion with his holy spirit, by which he commits spiritual suicide.
The greater firmness of texture in Adam’s frame, might have preserved him from falling into errors of so fatal a nature; the weaker and more susceptible nature of his partner, rendered her more liable to it. Her native sensitiveness would occasion her to feel acutely the apparent evils that entered into the divine plan; she may have become perplexed at witnessing discrepancies, upon the general bearing and <<208>>beneficent effects of which the very tenderness of her heart would preclude her exercising a sound and dispassionate judgment.
Eve was not sufficiently strong in faith, and, reasoning as many too often do at this day, she fell! Not only does she herself eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but, insinuating into her husband’s mind the doubts that had perplexed her own, he also took and eat thereof.*
The death denounced as the penalty of man’s disobedience, could have had reference to no other than a spiritual death; for we do not find that immediate corporeal death followed the act. The Hebrew text is, literally, and as we think it ought here and in similar passages of the Scripture to have been rendered, “Dying, thou shalt die,” as meaning to convey, that on dying the death, to which man’s organization subjects his body, in obedience to a law common to all organic matter, in order to make room for other beings, Adam should cease likewise to exist in respect to the spiritual nature given to him when created; for by another law affecting the spirit or soul of man, unless while united to the body, it became awakened, sustained, and kept alive by its appropriate nutriment, it would, on the body’s dissolution, lose all consciousness of a pre-existent state.
Matter, so long as it may please God to uphold it, is not destined to utter annihilation, though constantly changing its form; and this is the case likewise with man’s corporeal frame. The spiritual principle may have been subjected to some such law; once called into existence, it may, like matter, be intended to exist after separation from the body, in perfect consciousness of identity, if, while united to the body, it had been kept alive by the aliment necessary for qualifying it for a spiritual state or world. If not so qualified, then to be at the disposal of its Creator, who, it may reasonably be supposed, does no more utterly annihilate this finer principle, than He does the comparatively gross constituent elements of bodies after destruction of their form, but uses it for his beneficent purposes: into which, however, we are forbidden to inquire.†
This doctrine will be found to solve many difficulties connected with the nature of the soul of man with that principle which enables all animals to evince a faculty to think, and even to reason in a limited degree, and to the subject of rewards and punishments in a future state.