|Vol. VII, No. 3
Sivan 5609, June 1849
The Proposed Assembly: Letter IV.
On the Formation of the Union of the Congregations of Israelites In The United States.
(Exposition of the Divine Plan for the Government of Man, Continued.)
What must have been his sensations on learning that the sole object of these labours and cares was the unbounded and universal diffusion of happiness throughout the creation! What the sense of his own exalted position when commanded to subdue the earth, and informed that dominion was given him over every living thing that moveth upon it! How strongly impressed, by the display of so much wisdom and beneficence around him, that his being invested in such powers implied, that it behooved him, in imitation of his Maker, to use them for benevolent purposes only, towards the creatures under him, and more especially towards his own species! The lesson, thus given, being evidently intended not for the first man exclusively but for his descendants likewise.
The description just given of the first man’s education, is no fanciful hypothesis, for it is strictly conformable to scriptural authority, as may be seen by referring to the first and second chapters of Genesis, from which the following specially corroborative passages are extracted. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, <<135>>and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God, created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the, sea and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.”*
“And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an helpmeet for him.”†
At this stage we pause, to consider the nature and extent of the instruction received by the first man, and both will be better understood by calling to mind the divine attributes, which may, not improperly, be divided into essential or inherent, and contingent attributes. To the former belong the attributes eternal, increate, self-existent, incorporeal, perfect, and unparalleled unity, ubiquity, free will, holiness, omnipotent, omniscient, prescient, and others of this class: among the latter, justice, righteousness, beneficence, loving kindness, and mercy.
It may be affirmed without fear of contradiction, that without laws there can be no order—that the universe itself could not exist one moment, were it not that there has nothing been created which is not subjected to laws.
This proposition is in nothing so clearly demonstrated as in the Creator, who has imposed laws on all things, having instituted laws for himself, such as have been classed as contingent attributes, and properly so termed; because, unless it had pleased God to create beings upon whom and for whom they are continually operating, there would have been no object or motive for those attributes.
The more its details are examined, the more beautiful does the divine economy for the government of the creation appear. Could a Being, such as the humblest intellect can now conceive of, since a more correct knowledge of Him has happily become so general, could He, without laying down for himself rules, or laws, for beneficially governing them, <<136>>have called into existence beings that, through the very wisdom and beneficence that presided over their creation, are all, necessarily, subjected to many physical and moral evils—subjected to them by Him who has declared “I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me.—That they may know from time rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I the Lord do all these things?”*
A just God who has declared this could not omit, nor has He omitted, to provide just laws or rules for himself; for, if man’s nature is to be liable to err, is there not the attribute of mercy to forgive and receive him again into favour? And does he not experience the attribute of justice, in having been carefully instructed to avoid evil and choose good? May not even his faculty to err be a manifestation of the attribute of beneficence, in order to render it necessary for him to have constant recourse to his Maker, and thence imbibe those living truths which exalt his nature here and fit him to enter the kingdom of heaven?
If among the creatures below man some prey upon others, is it not that all might live and partake of the enjoyments and pleasures allowed to each? If there is pain and sorrow, surely there is pleasure and happiness, the latter in far greater measure than the former.
Shall we, then, dare to question the motives of Him whose justice is manifested, by his having impartially mingled a few drops of that we deem evil, in each and every cup of existence overflowing with his bounties?
The Creator’s care is over all his works: had it been exclusively bestowed on a part, it is clear the rest must have been condemned to unmitigated misery. If some pain and suffering have been distributed to all, do not the divine justice and righteousness shine forth in the discovery that ample compensation has been provided, through innumerable bounties likewise conferred on all’?
The nature and purports of the instruction received by the first man, will now be better perceived and understood.
By having had the works of the creation unfolded and explained to him, he would become acquainted with both the contingent and essential divine attributes; thence the sublime abstract truths and righteous principles, connected with the attributes, would be thrown into his mind, fitting him properly to perform on earth the part assigned him <<137>>in being made in the likeness of his Maker, and in having dominion given him over all other living things.
We can imagine none but the most thrilling emotions in his breast from this kind of instruction, and that its natural effects would be the creating in him intense love towards his divine Benefactor, implicit faith in his wisdom and justice, and a consequently becoming fear lest he should offend Him—the three great elements of that pure and rational religion which, as was originally intended, will eventually be that of the whole human race.
The purpose of impressing these primary elements of religion on the human mind was, undoubtedly, to dispose man to obey unreservedly whatever the beneficent author of his being might command.
The extent of the instruction he received, up to that stage, had been confined to the instilling of abstract truths and principles, and exhibiting their effects on the creation; but, the race of man being destined for the social state, the complex interests and relations of that state required an infinity of rules for conduct, and for rendering man’s lot here on earth that which his Creator designed it should be, a foretaste of heavenly happiness.
Preparatory to a fuller and appropriate instruction being given, the obedience of the first pair, as the fruit of their education, was put to the test by the command to the man: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely [eat] it; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,”*—in the Hebrew, dying thou shalt die—a very important point to be attended to.
It will be our melancholy task to comment, in our next, on the deplorable record of man’s first act of disobedience.
A. A. Lindo