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Man’s Nature and Destiny

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    25 THE DEATH OF ADAM

    THE inquirer into the nature of man, and his condition in death must ever turn with the deepest interest to the record which has been given concerning the father of our race. In the first chapters of Genesis we have an account of the origin of the human family, at once so simple and consistent that the jeers of skepticism fall harmless at its feet, and science, in comparison, only makes itself ridiculous, in trying to account for it in any other manner. And in the sentence pronounced upon Adam, the first man, when he fell under the fearful guilt of transgression, we are shown to what condition death was designed to reduce the human family. In the creation and death of Adam, we have the account of the building up and the unbuilding of a human being; and this case, being the first and most illustrious, must furnish the precedent and establish the rule for the whole race.MND 190.1

    Of the creation of Adam and the elements of which he was composed, we have already spoken. The record brings to view a formation made wholly of the dust of the ground. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.” This body was endowed with a high and perfect organization, and was quickened into life by the breath which the Lord breathed into its nostrils. The body, before it was made alive, had no power to act; the breath, before it was breathed into the body, had no power of voluntary action; but when this breath was breathed into this body, the body was quickened, the machinery was set in motion, by this vital principle, and all the physical life and mental action at once resulted.MND 190.2

    The Author of this noblest of creative works would necessarily, as the ruler over all, require the creatures of his hand to obey him. But only a spontaneous love, and a voluntary and willing submission, can constitute true obedience. He therefore placed the man whom he had formed, as was meet, upon a state of probation to test his loyalty to his Maker. The scene of this trial was the beautiful garden in which was everything that was pleasant to the sight and good for food; and over all that adorned or enriched his Eden home, with one exception, he had unlimited control. The condition upon which he was to be tested is thus definitely expressed:-MND 191.1

    “And the Lord God commended the man, saying, 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; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”MND 191.2

    Adam and Eve could not mistake the requirement of this law, nor fail to understand the intent of the penalty. And before Satan could cause his temptation to make any impression on the mind of Eve, he had to contradict this threatening, assuring her that they should not surely die. A question of veracity was thus raised between God and Satan; and strange to say, the theological world, in interpreting the penalty, have virtually, with the exception of a small minority, sided with Satan. This is seen in the interpretation which is commonly put on this threatened penalty of death, making it consist of three divisions: 1. Alienation of the soul from God, the love of sin, and the hatred of holiness, called “death spiritual;” 2. The separation of soul and body, called “death temporal;” 3. Immediately after temporal death, the conscious torment of the soul in hell, which is to have no end, which is called “death eternal.” The Baptist Confession of Faith, art. 5, says:-MND 191.3

    “We believe that God made man upright; but he, sinning, involved himself and posterity in death spiritual, temporal, and eternal; from all which there is no deliverance but by Christ.”MND 192.1

    Let us look at the different installments of this penalty, and see if they will harmonize with the language in which the original threatening is expressed; namely, “Thou shalt surely die.” Adam incurred the penalty by sinning. After he had sinned, he was a sinner. But a state of sin is that state of alienation from God which the orthodox school make to be a part of the penalty of his transgression. In this they confound the punishment of sin with that which was simply its result, and thus give the sentence, virtually, this profoundly sensible reading: “In the day that thou sinnest, thou shalt surely be a sinner:! It will never do to charge such a folly upon the sacred record; hence we need say no more about the claim that “death spiritual” was a part of the threatened penalty. Let us now look at another point.MND 192.2

    Because Adam wickedly became a sinner, and brought himself into a state of alienation from God, the doom was pronounced upon him, “Thou shalt surely die.” Could this mean that he should suffer the punishment of eternal death? If so, Adam never could have been released there-from. But he is to be released from the death incurred by his transgression; for “in Christ,” the Scriptures assure us, all shall again “be made alive.”MND 192.3

    These two installments, then, spiritual and eternal death, utterly fail us when brought to the test of the language in which the sentence is expressed: one is nonsense, and the other an impossibility.MND 193.1

    Temporal death alone remains to be considered; but the interpretation which is given to this completely nullifies the penalty, and makes Satan to have been correct when he said, “Thou shalt not surely die.” Temporal death is interpreted to mean the separation of the soul from the body, the body alone to die, but the soul, which is called the real, responsible man, to enter upon an enlarged and higher life. In this case, there is no death; and the sentence should have read, In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt be freed from the clog of this mortal body, and enter upon a new and eternal life. So said Satan, “Ye shall not surely die,” but “ye shall be as gods;” and true to this assertion from the father of lies, the heathen have all along deified their dead men, and worshiped their departed heroes; while modern poets have sung, “There is no death; what seems so is “transition.” If ever the skill of a deceiver and the gullibility of a victim were manifested in an unaccountable degree, it is in this fact: that right in the face and eyes of the pale throng that daily passes down through the gate of death, the Devil can make men believe that after all his first lie was true, and there is no such thing as death.MND 193.2

    From these considerations, it is evident that nothing will meet the demands of the sentence but the cessation of the life of the while man. But that, says one, cannot be, for he was to die in the very day he ate of the forbidden fruit: yet he did not literally die for nine hundred and thirty years. If this is an objection against the view we advocate, it is equally such against every other. Take the threefold penalty above noticed. If death spiritual, death temporal, and death eternal was the penalty, how much was fulfilled on the day he sinned? - Not death eternal, surely, and not death temporal, which did not take place for nine hundred and thirty years, but only death spiritual. But this was only the first installment of the penalty, and for less important than the other two. The most that the friends of this interpretation can say, therefore, is, that the penalty began on that very day to be fulfilled. But we can say as much with our view. “Dying, thou shalt die,” reads the margin; which some understand to mean, “Thou shalt inherit a mortal nature, and the process of decay shall commence.” As soon as he sinned, he came under the sentence of death, and the work commenced. He bore up against the encroachments of dissolution for nine hundred and thirty years, and then the work was fully accomplished.MND 193.3

    But there need be no misunderstanding here; for the unfortunate development of subsequent events called forth such words from God, and rendered such a course of action necessary, as to set forth in the most unmistakable manner the nature of the penalty he had affixed to disobedience.MND 194.1

    When Adam sinned, it remained for God to carry out that of which he had forewarned him. He must be brought to account, and receive the just sentence for his deeds. Having before him the three guilty parties, the man, the woman, and the serpent, he began with Adam - “Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat?” Adam acknowledged the crime, but laid the blame of it upon the woman. God then addressed the woman, “What is this that thou hast done?” and she laid the blame upon the serpent. God then proceeded to sentence the parties, reversing the order, beginning with the serpent and ending with Adam. And when the case of Adam came up, the narrative proceeds in these plain words: “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Genesis 3:11-19.MND 194.2

    In these words the Lord himself gives us an authoritative interpretation of the penalty, from which there is no appeal. Mark again the closing language of the sentence (Genesis 3:19): “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt then return.” The return to dust is here made a subsequent event, to be preceded by a period of wearing toil. And being finally overcome by the labors and ills of life, the person addressed was to return again to the dust from which he was taken. With Adam, this process commenced on the very day he transgressed, and the penalty threatened, which covered all this condition of things from the beginning to the end, was executed in full when this process was fully completed in Adam’s death, nine hundred and thirty years thereafter.MND 195.1

    Two things are connected together in the penalty affixed to Adam’s disobedience. These are the words “day” and “die:” ‘In the day thou eatest, thou shalt die.” The dying, whatever view we take of it, must include temporal or literal death. But this was not accomplished on that very day. Therefore, to find a death which was inflicted on that literal day, a figurative sense is given to the word “die,” and it is claimed that a spiritual death was that day wrought upon Adam. But we inquire, If either of these terms, “day” or “die,” is to be taken figuratively, why not let the dying be literal, and the day figurative, especially since the sentence which God pronounced upon Adam, when he came up for trial, shows that literal death, and that only, was intended in the penalty?MND 196.1

    The use of the word “day” in such a sense, meaning an indefinite period of time, is of frequent occurrence in the Scriptures. An instance in point occurs in 1 Kings 2:36-46. King Solomon bound Shimei by an oath to remain in Jerusalem, under the sentence that on the day he went out in any direction, he should be slain. After three years, two of his servants ran away to Gath, and he went after them. It was then told Solomon that Shimei had been to Gath and returned. Solomon sent for him, reminded him of the conditions on which his life was suspended, and the oath he had broken, and then commanded the executioner to put him to death.MND 196.2

    Gath was some twenty-five males from Jerusalem. That Shimei could go there, and get his servants, return, be sent for by Solomon, and be tried and executed, all on the same day, is a supposition by no means probable, even if it were possible. Yet in his death the sentence was fulfilled, that on the day he went out he should be slain; because on the very day he passed out of the city, the only condition that held back the execution of the sentence was removed, and he was virtually a dead man.MND 196.3

    So with Adam. He was immediately cut off from the tree of life, his source of physical vitality. So much was executed on that very day. Death was then his inevitable portion, to be accomplished within the limits of that period covered by the word “day”MND 197.1

    We are very well aware of the method adopted to evade the conclusion which naturally follows from the language of the sentence in Genesis 3:19. This, it is claimed was spoken only of the body, not of the soul. The poetry of Longfellow - “Dust thou art, to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul”—takes much better with most people than the plain language of inspiration itself.MND 197.2

    To whom, then, or to what, was this sentence addressed, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return?” Admitting that there is such a creature of the imagination as the popular, independent, immortal soul, was the language addressed to that, or to the body? If there is such a soul as this, what does it constitute, on the authority of the friends of that theory themselves? - It is the real, responsible, intelligent man. Watson says, “It is the soul only which perceives pain or pleasure, “which suffers or enjoys;” and D.D. Whedon says, “It is the soul that hears, feels, tastes, and smells through its sensorial organs.” The sentence, then, would be addressed to that which could hear; the penalty would be pronounced upon that which could feel. The body, in the common view, is only an irresponsible instrument, the means by which the soul acts. It can, of itself, neither see, hear, feel, will, nor act. Who, then, will have the hardihood to assert that God addressed his sentence to the irresponsible instrument, the body merely? This would be the same as for the judge in a criminal court to proceed deliberately to address the knife with which the murderer had taken the life of his victim, and pronounce sentence upon that, instead of the murderer himself. Away with a view which offers to the Majesty of heaven the insult of representing that he acts in such a manner!MND 197.3

    In the sentence, the personal pronoun “thy” is once, and the personal pronoun “thou” is five times, applied to the Adam whom God addressed. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” When we address our fellow-men by the different personal pronouns of our language, what do we address? - The conscious, intelligent, responsible man, that which sees, feels, hears, thinks, acts, and is morally accountable. But this, in popular parlance, is the soul; these pronouns must every time stand for the soul. The pronouns “thy” and “thou” in Genesis 3:19, must, then, mean Adam’s soul. If they do not mean it here, how does the same pronoun, “thou,” in Luke 23:43, mean the thief’s soul, when Christ said to him, “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise?” or the “I” and “my” in 2 Peter 1:14, refer to Peter’s soul, as we are told they do, when he says, “knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle?” Our friends must be consistent and uniform in their interpretations. If in these instances the pronouns do not refer to the soul, then these strong prooftexts, to which the immaterialist always appeals, are abandoned: if they do here refer to the soul, they must likewise, in Genesis 3:19, refer to the soul. In that language, then, God addresses Adam’s soul; and we have the authority of Jehovah himself, the Creator of man, against whose sentence, and the sunlight of whose word, it does not become puny mortals to oppose their shallow dictums, and the rush-light of human reason, that man’s soul is wholly mortal, and that in the dissolution of death it goes back to dust again! There is no avoiding this conclusion; and it forever settles the question of man’s condition in death. It shows that the intermediate state must be one in which the conscious man has lost his consciousness, the intelligent man his intelligence, the responsible man his responsibility, and in which all the powers of his being, mental, emotional, and physical, have ceased to act.MND 198.1

    No further argument need be introduced to show that the Adamic penalty was literal death, and that it reduced the whole, an to a condition of unconsciousness and decay. But a few additional considerations will show that the popular view is cumbered with absurdities on every hand so plain that they should have proved their own antidote, and saved the doctors of theology from the preposterous definitions they have attached to death.MND 199.1

    We have the authority of Paul for stating that through Christ we are released from all the penalty which the race has incurred through Adam’s transgression. “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” If the death in which we are involved through Adam is “death spiritual, death temporal, and death eternal,” then all the human family is redeemed from these through Christ, and Universalism is the result.MND 199.2

    Again, Christ tasted death for every man. He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. That is, Christ died the same death for us which was introduced into the world by Adam’s sin. Was this death eternal? If so, the Saviour is perished, and the plan of salvation must prove an utter failure.MND 199.3

    In Romans 5:12-14 occurs this remarkable passage:-MND 200.1

    “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law, sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of Him that was to come.)”MND 200.2

    In the first part of the verse, Paul speaks of death that come in by Adam’s sin, and then says that it reigned from Adam to Moses over them that had not sinned. From this language, accepting the popular interpretation of the Adamic penalty, we must come to the intolerable conclusion that personally sinless beings from Adam to Moses were consigned to eternal misery!MND 200.3

    To the view that the Adamic penalty was simply literal death, many eminent men have given their unqualified adhesion.MND 200.4

    John Locke (“Reasonableness of Christianity,” s. 1) says:-MND 200.5

    “By reason of Adam’s transgression, all men are mortal and come to die.... It seems a strange way of understanding a law which requires the plainest and directest words, that by death should be meant eternal life in misery.... I confess that by death, here I can understand nothing but a ceasing to be, the losing of all action of life and sense. Such a death came upon Adam and all his posterity, by his first disobedience in paradise, under which death they should have lain forever had it not been for the redemption by Jesus Christ.”MND 200.6

    Isaac Watts (“Ruin and Recovery of Mankind,” s. 3), though he was a believer in the immortality of the soul, has the candor to say:-MND 201.1

    “There is not one place of Scripture that occurs to me, where the word ‘death’ as it was threatened in the law of innocency, necessarily signifies a certain miserable immortality of the soul, either to Adam, the actual sinner, or to his posterity.”MND 201.2

    Dr. Taylor says:-MND 201.3

    “Death was to be the consequence of his [Adam’s] disobedience, and the death here threatened can be opposed only to that life God gave Adam when he created him.”MND 201.4

    With two more considerations, we close this chapter:-MND 201.5

    1. Adam was on probation. Life and death were set before him. “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die,” said God. The only promise of life he had in case of disobedience came from one whom it is not very flattering to the advocates of a natural immortality to call the first propounder and natural ally of their system. But had Adam been endowed with a natural immortality, it could not have been suspended on his obedience. But it was so suspended, as we learn from the first pages of revelation. It was, therefore, not absolute, but contingent. Immortal he might become by obedience to God; disobeying, he was to die. He did disobey, and was driven from the garden. “And now,” said God, “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever;” - therefore the cherubim and flaming sword were placed to exclude forever his approach to the life-giving tree. Quite the reverse of an uncontingent immortality is certainly brought to view here. Adam could bequeath to his posterity no higher nature than he himself possessed. The stream that, commencing just outside the garden of Eden, has flowed down through the lapse of six thousand years, has certainly never risen higher than the fountain-head; and we may be sure we possess no superior endowments in this respect to those of Adam.MND 201.6

    2. The second consideration under this head is, the exhortations we have in the word of God to seek for immortality, if we would obtain it. “Seek the Lord, and ye shall live,” is his declaration to the house of Israel. Amos 5:4, 6. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God, is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23. Gift to whom? To every man, irrespective of character? - By no means; but gift through Christ, to them only who are his. Again: “To them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, honor, and immortality [God will render], eternal life.” Romans 2:7. Varying the language of the apostle a little, we may here inquire, What a man hath, why doth he yet seek for? The propriety of seeking for that which we already have, is something in regard to which it yet remains that we be enlightened by the advocates of the dominant theology.MND 202.1

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