THE EDENIC CURSE AND MODERN PROBLEMS
By D. M. PANTON, B.A.
Christianity is above all things a religion of fact. The deepest roots of our modern problems and perplexities, their radical causes, were all laid bare in the dawn of the world and it is most wonderful to ponder how the first drama of the human left forever a physical imprint - a visible transcript of the great facts of the Fall - on a creation that has borne these stigmata ever since. The sliding serpent, the travailing availing woman, the ‘sweated’ labourer, the thorny hedge that prohibits like spiked steel - a four-fold curse has stamped on the physical realm a constant proof and revelation of what happened in the spiritual realm. And so deeply intermixed and vitally inter-related is the whole creation that all that has life - the human, the animal, and the vegetable kingdoms, and indirectly the angelic above, and the mineral below - once infected, plunged together into a common ruin.
The first blow of the descending Curse leaves the serpent an utterly changed creature. There is no other animal which shows so sharp a contrast between its keen, even cunning intellectual powers - the Saviour says, "Be wise as serpents" (Matt. 10: 16) - and its creeping, writhing degradation and deformity. "Upon thy belly" - no longer the noble, erect head of the animal creation, even as its deceiver had once been the shining chief of the angelic hierarchies "shalt thou go";* And the whole animal world plunged headlong with him - "cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field" (Gen. 3: 14). The serpent spoke, and lo, the first recorded miracle of Satan: the serpent crawls, and behold the first recorded miracle of God!** Our very horror of a snake is an unceasing echo of the Fall. And the sharp, two-edged sword out of the mouth of Jehovah glances deeper, dividing asunder Satan and serpent, and serpent and Satan; a single stroke flashes death and life; and the ruined Angel overhears in the serpent's curse a hidden prophecy with a fatal venom for himself. "It [the woman's seed] shall bruise thy head" - a vital part, with a mortal blow - "and thou shalt bruise his heel" - the crucified but un-annihilated Christ, rising triumphant out of murder by Satan. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Prov. 18: 21) - how much more in God's! in one short clause is the doom of all the hellish, and the salvation of all the godly. "Behold then the goodness and the severity of God" (Rom. 11: 22): judgment without mercy, and mercy unmasked. So the very crisis of the Fall held, in germ, Paul's forecast - "The Lord shall bruise Satan under your feet" - the wider seed, yet all included in the single Seed shortly (Rom. 16: 20).
[*It seems probable that the Tree of Knowledge was the Vine, which also now creeps and crawls, snake-like, and which has been responsible for more than all other trees put together; for knowledge and wine, both in themselves good, are abused, among the most dangerous things of the world.
** "God in His wisdom thought good so to blur and deface the mask whereby the Devil covered his vileness, as to make the serpent an everlasting hieroglyph of the wicked spirit's execrable baseness, a glass for all future days wherein to behold his villainy " (Mede).]
The Lord God now turns to the Woman. The serpent's gait caught the blight: the woman's stigma falls on her motherhood. "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow" - thy travail - "and conception" - in birth-intensity; "in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children" - in the bringing forth and the bringing up a mother's griefs are full; - "and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" - a subjection now passed into a servitude. No mere prophecy of woman's subordination, and alas, too often tragic degradation down the ages, but an investiture of man with perpetual supremacy; as first of earth's transgressors, the woman now walks first in the train of earth's mourners. Sorrow grips the very birth of man; and, in the Woman, the Curse falls on the whole realm of emotion. The woman's susceptibility to temptation becomes the woman's susceptibility to sorrow. "She must pay the penalty of her sin before she can rejoice in her child" (Chrysologus). Man thinks, but woman feels; and it is full of poignant pathos that far the commonest woman's name in the Bible - they fairly cluster around the Cross (John 19: 25) - is Mary; and 'Mary' is supposed to be derived from 'Marah,' bitterness. The ancient classics - with tragic truth, since the Curse - with one voice affirmed that tears are at the root of things. Dr. A. B. Davidson, a great Hebrew scholar, was, a friend has said, "a fervent and almost feminine soul, who took up the long desolations of the world in the priesthood of a sympathetic imagination, and whose only refuge was in the Most High." "Do you ever," he asked an intimate friend, "without any special reason for grief, fall into uncontrollable weeping?". Then after a pause he added:- "just the other day I was alone; and there came such a sense of the mystery, the uncertainty, the loneliness, the pathos of life, that I was for a long time shaken by sobs which I was unable to control." Nevertheless in the travail is the Seed: "the memorial of the deliverance and of the sin is one" (Bonar).
the full blast of the Curse now falls on the responsible head of the race, the
bread-winner. "And unto Adam he said. In the sweat of thy face"
- ‘in it,’ not ‘by it,’ for all are not manual
labourers; but all shall eat in sweat of soul - "shalt
thou" - for through Adam God is addressing something un-escapable
by every human soul - "eat bread, until thou
return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken":
a life of labour, and a doom of death; through troops of evils to the king of
terrors. All economic problems, all the
fret and turmoil of the labour world, all slaveries, class wars, and fierce
revolutions, are rooted here; all infirmaries, hospitals, lazarettoes,
madhouses; all plagues, monstrosities, abortions, physical hideousness:- the modern world lies bare before the primal Curse. The primitive diet-fruit, since strictly
rationed by a Nature made niggard by the Curse - would, springing out of a
world that was simply an orchard, be a lightening of world-labour almost
inconceivable.* But the internal corruption is worse
than the external scarcity. "Daily feeding, upon an accursed soil, we renew our dying
frames for a while, but the repair is never equal to the exhaustion; and while
the atoms of matter remain intact, they refuse to hold together in that organic
compact, which serves the spirit's use: they part company, and go to do other
work in the machinery of creation, for 'the dust
returns to the earth as it was.’" In Adam, henceforth, is nothing but
death. One whole book of the Bible - Ecclesiastes - is a heart-broken comment on this
single utterance of God. We never
see a corpse but we see the Curse.
How wonderful that in that doom of death lay the only hope of a
[* A physiological change probably passed over man - as it certainly did, after the Flood, in the shortening of life - permitting or compelling a herbal, and afterwards a flesh, diet.]
But the whole creation is so one that the descent of a part - or the redemption of a part - is the fall, or redemption, of all; and we never enter a garden, but lo, in the soil itself, the Curse! "Cursed is the ground" - your own original material - "for thy sake"; animals fell for Satan's sake, earth for man’s, man’s tragedy is not due to his being made of dust, but the dust's tragedy is due to man being made of it.* "Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee": sin's new home must be a barren world with, as its only spontaneous production, thorns**: the leper must have a lazaretto. So all earth's noxious products - the thorn, things hurtful; the thistle, things worthless - all blight, mildew, rottenness; all noxious and poisonous swamps; all deserts and wildernesses: earth's desolations spring, not from earth, but from sin. Christ's cursing of the fig tree meant more than barrenness - it meant blight; and without the pardon of the sin, there can be no cure of the blight.
[* This forever disproves the ancient and modern Gnostic's contention that sin springs from matter, and is inherent in it: the truth is the reverse - evil flows into matter from spirit, not into spirit from matter.
** In the unfallen earth, man was to "dress and keep" the garden (Gen. 2: 15), not to produce it.]
So the incalculably colossal mistake the world is making, and largely the Church also, is the ignoring of these basic facts of life. Men, doubting, or ignoring, or denying, or mocking Genesis, seek to solve earth's problems without the remotest reference to the awful words out of the mouth of the Most High. But the world's problems lie fathoms deeper than the attempted political, social, economic, spiritual solutions; and the annihilating proof lies in a very simple fact. No science, no reform, no legislation, no revolution can re-erect the snake, remove the travail, assuage the sweat, stop the weed from springing or revive the corpse: so long as these things are undone, the Curse clings to the globe, and to mankind, like a robe of Nessus.* Earth's Problems can alone be attacked, where Christ attacked them, in the undoing of the Curse. In the words of Dr. Horatius Bonar:- "The first Adam's connection with earth (being made of dust) drew on it all evil when he fell; but the Second Adam's connection with it - for He also has a body formed out of it - shall undo the evil, cancel the curse, and perfect earth again."
[*All man-made alleviations of the Curse - anaesthetics, labour-lightening machinery, chemical manures, etc - only reveal a Curse too sore and deep for any to remove save Him who laid it. Man may check the flow of tears but he cannot choke their fountain.]
Meanwhile, all present problems are met by the fact that, embedded in the Curse itself, lies the first conversion, and all later conversions, in the history of the world. "I will put ENMITY between thee and the woman." Eve had been in open alliance with the Serpent; she had toyed with his temptations, and been influenced by his reasonings, and acted on his suggestions: now suddenly, by Divine, sovereign, electing grace, God sunders the alliance for ever, and makes them enemies, for all eternity. The Curse is the cradle of the Church. For in it God put a deathless hate of sin into our hearts: He ranged us up against Hell and all its works: He divorced us from the creeping, crawling, revolting abominations of Satan. He put an undying struggle into our breasts against the seed of the Serpent in ourselves: He put us for ever on the side of holiness and goodness and truth.
AN IMPUTED CURSE
1. He who was to remove sin must not himself be liable to it. He who was to be a substitute for the guilty must himself be innocent. He who was to suffer in the stead of the disobedient must himself be obedient in all things.
2. He who was to be the substitute for all must have the common nature of all. He must not take the person of one individual man (such as Abraham, Moses, Elias), but he must take the nature of all, and sum up all mankind in himself.
3. He who was to do more than counterbalance the weight of the sins of all must have infinite merits of his own, in order that the scale of Divine justice may preponderate in their favour. And nothing that is not divine is infinite. In order, therefore, that he may be able to suffer for sin, he must be human; and in order that he may be able to take away the sins, and to satisfy God's justice for them, he must be Divine.
4. In order that he may remove the curse pronounced in the law of God for disobedience, he must undergo that punishment which is specially declared in the Law to be the curse of God.
5. That punishment is hanging on a tree. That is specially called in the Law the curse of God. Deut.21: 23.
By undergoing this curse for us, Christ, He who is God from everlasting, and who became Emmanuel, God with us, God in our flesh, uniting together the two natures - the Divine and the Human - in His One Person, Christ Jesus, redeemed us from the curse of the Law. Thus, having accepted the curse. He liberated us from it.
- BISHOP WORDSWORTH.
A keeper in the Zoological Gardens in 1852 – a man named Gurling –drank [alcohol] somewhat freely, returned later to the Sanke House, took a Morocco venom-snake, and twisted it round his neck. The assistant keeper, horrified, cried, - “For God’s sake, put it back!” But the man only replied, - “I am inspired!” Then he took out a cobra; warmed it in his bosom; and then held it for an instant opposite his eyes. Like lightning the serpent struck between the eyes. The blood streamed. When help arrived, Gurling was seated on a chair. He said:- “I am a dead man.” First his speech failed; then his sight; then his hearing: and in an hour he was a corpse. Behold the sinner! “He that believeth not” – he who averts his eyes from the Serpent of Brass – “is CONDEMNED ALREADY” (John 3: 18) – he is, as he walks, death-doomed.
Some time ago a man from south of
-( The Sunday School Times,
CHRISTIANS ALSO NEED TO BEWARE OF THE SERPENT’S FASCINATION
“Take heed,” our
Saviour warns us (Mark 4: 24),
“what ye hear.” A gentleman in
Take warning. Beware of fascination; it is one of the most powerful methods to ensnare the unwary child of God. “Whoever neglects the Second Coming,” says D. L. Moody, “has only a mutilated Gospel, for the Bible teaches us not only the death and sufferings of Christ, but also His return to reign in honour and glory. His Second Coming is mentioned and referred to over three hundred times, yet I was in the church fifteen or sixteen years before I ever heard a sermon on it.” Why? Because, “the god of this world [Satan] hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel [good news] of the GLORY of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them” (1 Cor. 4: 4, R.V.).