By Patrick Fairbairn
Published by Smith & English, 1854
The religion of man, as it falls under our consideration at present, must be viewed as taking its commencement at the fall. What knowledge Adam possessed of the character and ways of God, before he fell; or with what forms of worship he gave expression to the thoughts and feelings which were called forth by his relation to God, and the circumstances of his condition, it is not possible for us now exactly to determine. Nor does it much concern us to know. Our interest in his religious views and prospects properly begins with the new aspect and constitution of things which arose with the entrance of sin. Then, too, for the first time, did an occasion arise for the introduction of typical acts and institutions, which otherwise should have had no proper foundation to rest on. From their very nature and object, they bear respect to another and better state of things preparing to be introduced; and hence necessarily imply, that man's existing condition already partook of evils and dangers which required to be met by the provisions of divine grace and benevolence, as necessary to prepare the way for a state of ultimate rest and satisfaction.
The opinion certainly began to be broached at an early period in the Christian church, and has often been formally propounded since, "That Paradise was to Adam a type of heaven; and that the never-ending life of happiness promised to our first parents, if they had continued obedient, and grown up to perfection under that economy wherein they were placed, should not have continued in the earthly paradise, but only have commenced there, and been perpetuated in a higher state."  It is possible, indeed, that such might have been the destination of man in the case supposed; but it is a point upon which Scripture is altogether silent, and in its original form too plainly bore the impress of the Eastern philosophy, which associated with matter in every form imperfection and evil. Those who were tinctured with this philosophy could not imagine, that Adam should feel himself to be in a state of proper satisfaction, so long as he was clothed upon with a body formed of the dust of earth, and dependent upon earthly productions for its support; and that he must, from the outset, have had his eye directed toward a higher and more ethereal state of being, of which the enjoyments he actually possessed, could present him with nothing more than an image and a foretaste. Whatever elements of truth there might be in such ideas, they belong entirely to the region of speculation, and are so far at variance with the representations of Scripture, as there the original frame and constitution of things appears as the relatively perfect, and what is to be hereafter as the recovery of what has been lost the restoration of what was at the beginning. It will, no doubt, be more than this; but its being so, is the incidental result of the way in which the good has been achieved, rather than its direct and professed object.
It was from an entirely different tendency--from a disposition to multiply typical meanings without rule or limit--that most writers of the Oocceian school were led to give a typical interpretation to many things in the primeval world--such as the mode of Adam's creation, the formation of Eve from his side while he slept, his relation to the trees in the midst of the garden. An eminent writer of that school, however, has justly remarked, that "in the state of innocence there were no typical rites adumbrating Christ and his merits, whereof there was then neither knowledge nor need; as the very word creation imports, which has nothing to do with a restoration or a restorer. All typical ceremonies were subsequent to the fall, and the promise of grace in Christ."  This was said by Alting with immediate reference to the Sabbath, and for the purpose of proving the Sabbath, in respect to its typical foreshadowing of the final rest of the redeemed, to have been instituted after the fall. In which case, the whole series of transactions connected with the formation of Eve, her presentation to Adam, and their joint participation of the forbidden fruit, must have taken place on the very clay on which Adam himself was created. This is altogether an improbable opinion; although it appears to have obtained some prevalence in Alting's age, and the times immediately succeeding. A typical employment of the Sabbath with reference to better things to come, by no means inferred its original and primary establishment for such a purpose. It may only have inferred, that the institution was now invested with a new meaning and importance, and brought within the circle of God's purposes of grace; precisely as in later times was done with articles of food and circumcision, and other things taken from the field of nature or of history, and associated with the hopes of salvation. Still, the general principle announced by Alting is undoubtedly correct. Nothing belonging to the garden of Eden could possess, in the theological sense, a typical character, till it had ceased to be the abode of man, and his relation to it had undergone an essential change. Till then the physical and moral constitution of this world must be regarded as in itself good, without any evil existing in it to call for the intervention of a Mediator, and consequently without any reference appearing to the work or benefits of redemption. Yet this by no means hinders, that all may have been so planned and arranged by the foreseeing eye of God, as to have readily admitted of various typical applications to the interests of redemption, after the entrance of sin required the things of redemption to be provided for. Nay, as the work of redemption is itself a creation a new work of God fashioning after a higher ideal the materials of the old we may reasonably expect that much in the second should be made to assume the form and image of what had originally appeared in the first. It is on this ground, indeed, that the argument from analogy is based.
But this is not our present theme. We have to do simply with man as fallen man as standing in need of redemption. And contemplating from this point of view his religious condition and prospects, we have first of all to take into account what has ever been, and what must necessarily be, a fundamental characteristic of the true religion the historical nature of its origin. It does not come forth with a kind of independent and theoretical completeness, but grows, by successive stages, out of the actual manifestations God gives of himself, and the circumstances in which his creatures are placed. Its primary elements of truth and duty are but deductions such as naturally force themselves on reflective minds from facts already known, and relations actually established in the course of providence. It is by no means necessary, therefore, that they should appear in the shape of formal enunciations or authoritative precepts, to give them a claim on the heart and conscience. That claim may both exist, and be distinctly recognised and felt, where it has not been legislatively imposed. Indeed, direct and explicit enactments are rather a mark of imperfection than otherwise of imperfection either in the objective grounds of religious instruction, or in the spiritual capacity and disposition to make an adequate use of those that exist. And hence it is that, as compared with Old Testament times, they are not to be found in the New. Believers in Christ are not under the law, but under grace. And yet, so far from being thereby released from the obligations of duty, they are placed in that respect on a higher level, and called to a more spiritual life. The law in its very form is an evidence of abounding iniquity. It contemplates a state of ignorance and depravity which it seeks to regulate and restrain by specific directions that presuppose an utter inability to discover the right, and a prevailing tendency to depart from it.
This, however, required time and opportunity for developement; and the world was at first no more prepared for the introduction of the Law than for the introduction of the Gospel. Man had fallen, indeed, from his original rectitude; but he had not therefore sunk into total blindness and corruption. Nor was he, in fact, treated as in such a condition by God. On the contrary, he was still regarded as possessing somewhat of that nobility of nature, that divine image, in the likeness of which he was so recently created as not needing, and, therefore, not receiving, any formal enactments to prescribe to him the path of duty, but capable himself of discerning these in God's manifested character and dealings, and in the facts connected with his own altered position. In these he was furnished with the materials of light and the grounds of obligation, such as? if rightly used, were perfectly sufficient to direct his course, and yet such as to allow ample scope for the display of the native tendencies of the heart. And only when these tendencies had proved to be so strong on the side of evil, that men were manifestly incapable of either knowing or doing what was right in the deteriorated condition of the world then only did it become necessary to present them with positive enactments, and hedge them round with stringent rules and prohibitions. The history of mankind as a whole, viewed in connection with the divine dispensations, bears an exact analogy to the history of each individual man. First, he appears as a child, weak, indeed, and prone to err, yet bearing the paternal image, and capable of learning from, and copying after the paternal example. This is at once the safe and the dutiful course for him. By and bye, however, as youth advances, the lawless desires and irregular passions of nature break forth, and he must be restrained and checked on every side by the bonds of law. Farther on, again, when these have served their end when the youth has sprung to manhood, and the paternal mind has become the mind also of the son, the age of law passes away; there is the liberty of the spirit, the freedom of full-grown man.
It will be understood, then, that we are not now to look for explicit statements of doctrines and authoritative commands, but, in the intentional absence of these, to consider what might be learned of divine truth and duty by the earliest race of worshippers, first, from the palpable facts of history and experience, and then from the symbolical acts and institutions, in connection with which their faith was to be maintained and exercised.
1. What, in such an enumeration, is obviously entitled to rank first, is the doctrine of human guilt and corruption.
From the moment of their transgression, our first parents knew that their relation to God had become sadly altered. The calm of their once peaceful bosoms was instantly agitated and disturbed by tormenting fears of judgment. Nor did these prove to be groundless alarms; they were the forerunners of a curse, which was soon thundered in their ears by the voice of God, and written out in their exiled and blighted condition. It was impossible for them to escape the conviction, that they were no longer in the sight of Gocl very good. And as their posterity grew, and one generation sprung up after another, the story of the lost heritage of blessing (no doubt perpetually repeated), and the still continued exclusion from the hallowed region of life, must have served to keep up the impression that sin had corrupted the nature, and marred the inheritance of man.
Evidences were not long wanting to shew, that sin in the first pair was evil in the root, which must, more or less, communicate itself to every branch of the human family. In the first-born of the family it sprung at once into an ill-omened maturity, as if to give warning of the disastrous results that might be expected in the future history of mankind. And constantly as the well-spring of life flowed on, the stream of human depravity swelled into a deeper and broader flood. There were things in God's earlier procedure that were naturally fitted to check its working, and repress its growth especially the mild forbearance and paternal kindness with which He treated the first race of transgressors the wonderful longevity granted to them the space left for repentance even to the greatest sinners, while still sufficient means were employed to convince them of their guilt and danger--all seeming to betoken the tender solicitude of a father yearning over his infant offspring, and restraining for a season the curse that now rested on their condition, if so be they might be won to His love and service. But it was the evil, not the good in man's nature, which: took advantage of this benign treatment on the part of God, to ripen into strength and fraitfulness. And, ere long, the very goodness of God found it needful to interpose, and relieve the earth of the mass of violence and corruption which, as in designed contrast to the benignity of heaven, had come to usurp possession of the world. So that, looking simply to the broad facts of history, the doctrine of human guilt and depravity stands forth with a melancholy prominence and particularity which could leave no doubt concerning it upon thoughfiil minds.
2. Another doctrine, which the facts of primeval history rendered it equally impossible for thoughful minds to gainsay or overlook, is the righteousness of God's character and government.
For, that mankind should have been expelled from the region of life, and made subject to a curse which doomed them to sorrow and trouble, disease and death, in consequence of their violation of a single command of Heaven, was a proof patent to all, and memorable in the annals of the world, that everything in the divine government is subordinate to the principles of rectitude. "There was in it," as was said by Irving in one of his best moods, "a most sublime act of holiness. God, after making Adam a creature for an image and likeness of himself, did resolve him into vile dust through viler corruption, when once he had sinned; proving that one act of sin was, in God's sight, of far more account than a whole world teeming with beautiful and blessed life, which He would rather send headlong into death than suffer one sin of His creature to go unpunished. And though creation's teeming fountain might flow on ever so long, still the flowing waters of created life must ever empty themselves into the gulph of death. This is a most sublime exaltation of the moral above the material, shewing that all material beauty and blessedness of life is but, as it were, the clothing of one good thought, which, if it become evil, straightway all departs like the shadow of a dream." Who could seriously reflect on this--on the good that was lost, and the inheritance of evil that came in its place--without being solemnly impressed with the conviction, that the sceptre of God's government is a sceptre of righteousness, and that blessing might be expected under it only by such as love righteousness and hate iniquity?
3. But if nothing more had been manifested of God in the facts of primeval history than this--had He appeared only as a righteous judge executing deserved condemnation on the guilty, Adam and his fallen offspring might have been appalled and terrified before Him, but they could not have ventured to approach Him with acts of worship. We notice, therefore, as another truth brought out in connection with the circumstances of the fall, and an essentially new feature in the divine character, the exhibition of grace which was then given on the part of God to the fallen. That everything was not subjected to instantaneous and overwhelming destruction, was itself a proof of the introduction of a principle of grace into the divine administration. The mere respite of the sentence of death (which, if justice alone had prevailed, must have been executed on the very day of transgression), and the establishment of an order of things which still contained many tokens of divine goodness, gave evidence of thoughts of mercy and loving-kindness in God toward man. But as no vague intimations, or even probable conclusions of reason, from the general course of providence, could be sufficient to re-assure the heart on such a matter as this, an explicit assurance was given, that "the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent,"-- which, however dimly understood at first, could not fail even then to light up the conviction in the sinful heart, that it was the purpose of God to aid man in obtaining a recovery from the ruin of the fall. The serpent had been the ostensible occasion and instrument of the fall, the visible and living incarnation of the evil power which betrayed man to sell his birthright of life and blessing. And that this power should be destined to be not only successfully withstood, but bruised in the very head by the offspring of her over whom he had so easily prevailed, clearly bespoke the intention of God to defeat the malice of the tempter, and secure the final triumph of the lost.
But this, if done at all, must evidently be done in a way of grace. All natural good had been forfeited by the fall, and death the utter destruction of life and blessing had become the common doom of humanity. Whatever inheritance, therefore, of good, or whatever opportunity of acquiring it, might be again presented, could be traced to no other source than the divine beneficence freely granting what could never have been claimed on the ground of merit. And as the recovery promised necessarily implied a victory over the might and malice of the tempter, to be won by the very victims of his artifice, how otherwise could this be achieved than through the special interposition and grace of the Most High? Manhood in Adam and Eve, with every advantage on its side of a natural kind, had proved unable to stand before the enemy, to the extent of keeping the easiest possible command, and retaining possession of an inheritance already conferred. How greatly more unable must it have felt itself, if left unaided and alone, to work up against the evil, and destroy the destroyer? In such a case, hope could have found no solid footing to rest upon for the fulfilment of the promise, excepting what it descried in the gracious intentions and implied aid of the pro- miser. And when it appeared, as the history of the world advanced, how the evil continued to take root and grow, so as even for a time to threaten the extermination of the good, the impression must have deepened in the minds of the better portion of mankind, that the promised restoration must come through the intervention of divine power and goodness,- that the saved must owe their salvation to the grace of God.
4. Thus far the earliest inhabitants of the world might readily go in learning the truth of God, by simply looking to the broad and palpable facts of history. And without supposing them to have possessed any extraordinary reach of discernment, they might surely be conceived capable of taking one step more respecting the accomplishment of that salvation or recovery which was now the object of their desire and expectation. Adam saw and it must have been one of the most painful reflections which forced itself on his mind, and one, too, which subsequent events came, not to relieve, but rather to imbitter and aggravate he saw how his fall carried in its bosom the fall of humanity; and the nature, which in him had become stricken with pollution and death, went down thus degenerate and corrupt to all his posterity. It was plain, therefore, that the original constitution of things was based on a principle of headship, in virtue of which the condition of the entire race was made dependent on that of its common parent. And the thought was not far to seek, that the same constitution might somehow have place in connection with the work of recovery. Indeed, it seems impossible to understand how, excepting through such an idea, any distinct hope could be cherished of the attainment of salvation. By the one act of Adam's disobedience, he and his posterity together were banished from the region of pure and blessed life, and made subject to the law of sin and death. Whence, in such a case, could deliverance come? How could it so much as be conceived possible, to re-open the way of life, and place the restored inheritance of good on a secure and satisfactory footing, except through some second head of humanity supernaturally qualified for the undertaking? A fallen head could give birth only to a fallen offspring' so the righteousness of heaven had decreed; and the prospect of rising again to the possession of immortal life and blessing, seemed, by its very announcement, to call for the institution of another head, unfallen and yet human, through whom the prospect might be realised. Thus only could the divine government retain its uniformity of principle in the altered circumstances that had occurred; and thus only might it seem possible to have the end it proposed accomplished.
We do not suppose that the consideration of this principle of headship, as exhibited in the case of Adam and his posterity, could, of itself, have enabled those, who lived immediately subsequent to the fall, to obtain very clear or definite views in regard to the mode of its application in the working out of redemption. We merely suppose, that, in the circumstances of the case, there was enough to suggest to intelligent and discerning minds that it should in some way have a place. But the full understanding of the principle, and of the close harmony it establishes between the fall and redemption, as to the descending curse of the one, and the distributive grace and glory of the other, can be perceived only by us, whose privilege it is to look from the end of the world to its beginnings, and to trace the first dawn of the Gospel to the effulgence of its meridian glory. Even the Jewish Rabbins, who were far from occupying the vantage-ground we have reached, could yet discern some common ground between the heritage of evil derived from Adam, and the good to be effected by Messiah. "The secret of Adam," one of them remarks, "is the secret of the Messiah;" and another, "As the first man was the one that sinned, so shall the Messiah be the one to do sin away."  They recognised in Adam and Christ the two heads of humanity, with whom all mankind must be associated for evil or for good. On surer grounds, however, than lay within the ken of their apprehension, we know that Adam was in this respect "the type of him that was to come" (Rom. v. 14.) But in this respect alone; for in all other points we have to think of differences, not of resemblances. The principle, that belongs to them in common, stands simply In the relation they alike hold, the one to a fallen, the other to a restored offspring. The natural seed of Adam are dealt with as one with himself, first in transgression, and then in death the wages of transgression. And, in like manner, the spiritual seed of Christ are dealt with as one with him, first in the consummate righteousness he brought in, and then in the eternal life, which is its appointed recompense of blessing. "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive" all, namely, who stand connected with Christ in the economy of grace, as they do with Adam in the economy of nature. How could this be, but by the sin of Adam being regarded as the sin of humanity, and the righteousness of Christ as the property of those who by faith rest upon his name! Hence, in the fifth chapter of the epistle to the Komans, along with the facts which in the two cases attest the doctrine of headship, we find the parallel extended, so as to include also the respective grounds out of which they spring: "As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For, as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one, shall many be made righteous."
These statements of the Apostle are no more than an explanation of the facts of the case by connecting them with the moral government of God; and it is not in the power of human reason to give, either a satisfactory view of his meaning, or a rational account of the facts themselves, on any other ground than this principle of headship. It has also many analogies in the constitution of nature, and the history of providence to support it. And though, like every other peculiar doctrine of the Gospel, it will always prove a stone of stumbling to the natural man, it will never fail to impart peace and comfort to the child of faith. Some degree of this he will derive from it, even by contemplating it in its darkest side by looking to the inheritance of evil which it has been the occasion of transmitting from Adam to the whole human race. For, humbling as is the light in which it presents the natural condition of man, it still serves to keep the soul possessed of just and elevated views of the goodness of God. That all are naturally smitten with the leprosy of a sore disease, is matter of painful experience, and cannot be denied without setting aside the plainest lessons of history. But how much deeper must have been the pain, which the thought of this awakened, and how unspeakably more pregnant should it have appeared with fear and anxiety for the future, if the evil could have been traced to the operation of God, and had existed as an original and inherent element in the state and constitution of man? It was a great relief to the wretched bosom of the prodigal, and was all, indeed, that remained to keep him from the blackness of despair, to know that it was not his father who sent him forth into the condition of a swine-herd, fain to feed himself with the husks with which they were fed; a comforting thing to know, that these husks and that wretchedness were not emblems of his father. And can it be less comforting for the thoughtful mind, when awakening to the sad heritage of sin and death, under which humanity lies burdened, to know, that this ascends no higher than the first parent of the human family, and that, as originally settled by God, the condition of mankind was in all respects "very good." The evil is thus seen to have been not essential, but incidental; a root of man's planting, not of God's; an intrusion into Heavens workmanship, which Heaven may again drive out.
But a much stronger consolation is yielded by the consideration of this principle of headship, when it is viewed in connection with the second Adam; since it then assumes the happier aspect of the ground-floor of redemption--the actual, and, as far as we can perceive, the only possible foundation, on which a plan of complete recovery could have been reared. Excepting in connection with this principle, we cannot imagine how a remedial scheme could have been devised, that should have been in any measure adequate to the necessities of the case. Taken individually and apart, no man could have redeemed either his own soul, or the soul of a brother; he could not in a single case have recovered the lost good, far less have kept it in perpetuity if it had been recovered: and either divine justice must have foregone its claims, or each transgressor must have sunk under the weight of his own guilt and helplessness. But by means of the principle, which admits of an entire offspring having the root of its condition and the ground of its destiny in a common head, a door stood open in the divine administration for a plan of recovery co-extensive (it might be) with the work of ruin. And unless we could have assured ourselves of an absolute and continued freedom from sin (which even angelic natures could not do), we may well reconcile ourselves to such a principle in the divine government, as for one man's transgression has made us partakers of a fallen condition, since in that very principle we perceive the one channel through which access could be found for those who have fallen, to the peace and safety of a restored condition.
must know nothing aright of sin or salvation, who is incapable of
finding comfort in this view of the subject. And yet there is a ground
of comfort higher still, arising from the prospect it secures for
believers of a condition better and safer than what was originally
possessed by man before the fail. For, the second Adam, who, as the new
head of humanity, gives the tone and character to all that belongs to
the kingdom of God, is incomparably greater than the first, and has
received for himself and his redeemed an inheritance corresponding to
his personal worth and dignity. So that if the principle, of which we
speak, appears in the first instance like a depressing load weighing
humanity down to the very brink of perdition, it becomes at length a
divine lever to raise it to a height far beyond what it originally
occupied, or could otherwise have had any prospect of reaching. As the
Apostle graphically describes in his first epistle to the Corinthians,
"The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord
from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and
as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we
have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the
heavenly." Elevating thought! destined to be conformed to the image of
the Son of God, and therefore to share with him in the life, the
blessedness, and the glory, which he inherits in the kingdom of the
Father! Coupling, then, the end of the divine plan with the beginning,
and entering with childlike simplicity into its arrangements, we find,
that the principle of headship on which the whole hinges for evil and
for good, is really fraught with the richest beneficence, and should
call forth our admiration of the manifold wisdom and goodness of God.
For, through this an avenue has been laid open for us into the realms
above, and our natures have become linked in fellowship of good with
what is best and highest in the universe.
It thus appears, that there were four fundamental principles or
which the historical transactions connected with the fall served
strikingly to exhibit, and which must have been incorporated as primary
elements with the religion then introduced. 1. The doctrine of human
guilt and depravity; 2. of the
righteousness of God's character and
government; 3. of grace in God
as necessary to open, and actually
opening the door of hope for the fallen; 4. and, finally, of a
principle of headship, by which the offspring of a common parent were
associated in a common ruin, and by which again, under a new and better
constitution, the heirs of blessing might be associated in a common
restoration. In these elementary principles, however, we have rather
the basis of the patriarchal religion, than the religion itself. For
this, we must look to the symbols and institutions of worship. And, as
far as appears from the records of that early time, the materials out
of which these had at first to be fashioned were: The position assigned
to man in respect to the tree of life, the placing before him of the
cherubim and the flaming sword at the East of Eden, the covering of his
guilt by the sacrifice of animal life, and his still subsisting
relation to the day of rest originally hallowed and blessed by God. To
these we now proceed, in succession, to direct our inquiries.
1. This proposition, with the Patristic authorities that support it, may be found in the discourses of Bishop Bull. His proofs from the earlier Fathers Justin Martyr, Tatian, Ireneus, are very general. The first explicit proof is from Theophilus of Antioch, who speaks of Adam being "at length canonized or. consecrated, and ascending to heaven," if he had gone on to perfection. The testimony becomes more full, as the speculative influence of the Greek philosophy gains strength in the Church. And Clement of Alexandria expressly says in his Liturgy, that "if Adam had kept the commandments, he would have received immortality as the reward of his obedience" that is, immortality in heaven.
2. Altigni Opera, tom. v. p. 327.
3. See Tholuck Comm. on Rom. v. 12.