Greater Men and Women of the Bible by James Hastings: 003. Adam as the Man

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Greater Men and Women of the Bible by James Hastings: 003. Adam as the Man

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Adam as “the Man”

The Theological Interest

In the theological interest of Adam we turn to St. Paul's doctrine of the First and the Second Adam.

1. “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” The thought which links together the two clauses of this sentence is that of the unity of the race and the consequent possibility of the effect upon the whole of the acts of individual members. St. Paul teaches that the whole mass of humanity was affected by “one man's disobedience,” that in consequence of a shock at the very beginning the whole mechanism of human nature was put out of gear. And as a matter of fact this jarring and discord of human nature is what we see all through human history; and it is universal. We see it not less in the lives of the saints-in the impatience of Moses, in the passion of David, in the pride of Hezekiah-than in the awful and unmitigated degradation of the world before the Flood, and of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and of the wickedness of those whom the Lord drove out of Canaan from before the face of His own people. And this universal taint and corruption is not only a fact established by history, it is acknowledged and confessed by all who have allowed themselves to consider it. David confesses it of himself: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Jeremiah cries out, as he contemplates the sin of his fellow-countrymen: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” And the confession of the heathen poet is hardly less emphatic: “I see and I appreciate what is better, yet I follow what is worse.”

And this universal reign of sin was accompanied by the universal reign of death. “Death passed unto all men, for that all sinned.” Death, with its attendant terrors of pain and sickness and decay and horror, became the heritage of sinful man. And so God's gracious purpose was reversed by the act of man himself using the very gift of moral freedom, which was his most glorious, most God-like endowment, against the Giver. “God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of His own eternity. Nevertheless, through envy of the devil came death into the world; and they that do hold of his side do find it.”

2. Let us, next, consider what has been revealed as to the restoration to the human race of that righteousness which it lost in Adam. No remedy could be adequate which did not recognize or take into account the unity of the race; if the whole race, and nothing less, was involved in the trespass of its first head, the whole race, and nothing less, must be made to share in the restoration; if the whole race, and nothing less, has incurred the penalty, then by the whole race, and by nothing less, must the penalty be paid. And so we are led to the suggestion that the possibility of restoration, the possibility of the payment of the penalty, may lie in the very means through which and through whom the disaster came. We are led to see that what was needed was the gathering up of the race into a new head in whom it might find that righteousness which it ought to have found in the first, and in whom it might pay the penalty which by the trespass of the first it had incurred; we are led to see that, if there could be found a Head in whom the race might be as really one as it was in Adam, therein might lie the hope and means of its recovery. Could any such be found? Could there be one who, whilst really and truly and wholly Man, might be righteous, might be without that fault and corruption of the nature of every man which naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam? And, if such there were, could his righteousness be shared by all his brethren, could he and would he, as the true representative of all his brethren, pay the uttermost penalty of their sin, could he and would he abolish death, and triumph over him who alone could make death terrible?

We know the answer. Adam was in very truth “the figure of him that was to come.” God provided a new Head for our race. God did not despise the work of His own hands. Through human flesh and blood had come the failure, through human flesh and blood came the recovery. Adam was really the figure, the type, of Christ; Christ was really the anti-type of Adam.

Mankind has found a Saviour and a Representative; the acts of His life on earth were representative acts. It is true that this is only one aspect of His life, and that we must not forget that aspect of it in which it is to be viewed as representing God to man even while for our present purpose we rather view it as representing man to God. So viewed we can see the tremendous significance of every single act as being, according to the teaching of St. Paul, the act of the whole human race, and we can understand, at least to some extent, the detailed obsecrations of the Litany in which the suppliant Church pleads the redemptive efficacy of the acts of the Second Adam as offered on behalf of the whole race. In Him as Bone of its bone and Flesh of its flesh the human race rendered a perfect obedience, was tempted and conquered temptation, died and rose from death, and ascended into the heavens whence the trespass of the First Adam had shut it out. He bore the penalty of sin not merely as man's substitute, but as his representative as well; in Him mankind was so truly gathered up that it could claim His acts as in very deed its own. Mankind in Him retrieved its disaster and paid its debt, and that to the very last mite; in the agony and bloody sweat, in the cry of utter desolation on the Cross, Mankind was bearing its burden and suffering its penalty, in Him who, being what He was, could fully satisfy the Divine Justice and yet perfectly express the Divine love.1 [Note: H. V. S. Eck.]

I see two revelations in the crucified life of Jesus: (1) the manifestation of God's love, (2) the redemption of the race out of death. He, as the Second Adam, fulfilled the Law by the filial surrender of His will to the Father's. We inherit that surrender in our spiritual conditions from the Second Adam, even as we inherit the transgression from the First Adam in our natural conditions. I venture to feel that our Lord's obedience gave the race a new standing. The manifestation of the Father's love is seen, to use St. Paul's words, (1) in not reckoning the offence of the world, (2) in reconciling the world unto Himself (2Co_5:19).

The New Creation is Oneness with the Fount of all law; not obedience to the enactments of law, but fellowship with the Spirit or Source of law itself. The Holy Ghost is the power of this consciousness realized in our Lord Jesus Christ quickening or realizing the same consciousness in the hearts of such as believe in the glorified Humanity: that is to say, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ the race is glorified, is in full consciousness with the Supreme or Most High God.2 [Note: R. W. Corbet, Letters from a Mystic of the Present Day, 36.]

3. Adam, then, is “the figure of him that was to come,” the figure of our perfection, and of our ruin and mortality; the figure of God's intention, of what man has spoiled and God repaired. We may measure the reality of the deliverance by the reality, which we know, of the wreck; we may measure the vastness of what was wrecked by the greatness of the remedy. And so the world is changed, and what might but be guessed at before is made certain now. We are of a race that had lost its way; and now we know it. We are of a race whose prospects and destiny it is vain to circumscribe by what we see; it belongs to a world to which this world cannot reach, and where we are linked with God. So even the First Man dared to imagine before the Second came; but he knew not, and all the practical energy of his nature was directed here. He went forth and did great things. As it is said in those great Choruses which are the Psalms of Heathenism, he subdued the earth, he founded states, he sought out arts, he mastered powers living and powers elemental, he found the secret of beauty and the spell of words, and the power of numbers, and the fine threads that waken and order thought; he made the world his workshop, his arsenal, his palace; generation after generation he learned to know more of its inexhaustible gifts; his eye was more opened, his sense more delicate, his hand more crafty; he created, he measured, he gathered together, he enjoyed. He is before us now, in his greatness, his hopes, his pride, with even nobler aims and vaster tasks, alleviating misery, curing injustice, bridling or extinguishing disease. But still he is the First Man; of the riddle of his nature he has not the key, and despairs of reaching it; he passes in his greatness, and never continues in one stay; sorrow and decay baffle him, sin entangles him, and at the end is death. “Of the earth, earthy”; of the earth, bounded by its barriers, invisible, impassable.

And now, side by side with him, is the Second Man, from the Manger, the Cross, the Grave,-dead, yet alive, and alive forever; attended by His train of sanctities, by unthought-of revelations of heart, by the “things of the Spirit,” by hopes and peace which for this world were an idle dream, by the new Beatitudes. He comes in the greatness of His strength, He comes in weakness: but strength and weakness to Him are both alike; for love, which is of God, in strong and weak, is the life of the new creation, its “one thing needful,” the essential mark of its presence. So He comes, on the bed of sickness, in the lifelong burden, in the broken heart; with the children in spirit, the poor, the feeble, the helpless, the unknown; with the sorrows of penitence, the hunger after righteousness, the longings to be true, the longings to be pure, the joy of forgiveness, the hope that is for the other side of the grave. Strange attendants for the company of the Deliverer; but they bring with them the victory which nothing else has gained. “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the Second Man is the Lord from heaven.”

Now it is a plain, manifest Doctrine of the Holy Scriptures, that Man by the Fall is in such a condition that there was no help or Remedy for him either in the Height above, or in the Depth below, but by the Son of God's becoming incarnate, and taking he fallen Nature upon Him. If this alone could be the Remedy, does not this enough shew us the Disease? Does not this speak plainly enough what it was that Man had lost by his Fall, namely, the Birth of the Son of God in his Soul; and therefore it was that only the Son of God, in so mysterious a manner, could be his Redeemer? If he had lost less, a less power could have redeemed him. If he had lost something else, the Restoration of that something would have been his Redemption. But since it is an open, undeniable Doctrine of the Gospel, that there can be no Salvation for Mankind but in the Name and by the Power of the Son of God, by His being united to the fallen Nature, and so raising His own Birth and Life in it, is it not sufficiently declared to us that what was lost by the Fall, was the Birth of the Son of God in the Soul?1 [Note: William Law.]

I have tried again and again; and have fallen to pieces in failure. I remain face to face with the sense of impossibility and shame. Is it so? Then, and for this cause, instead of turning away in disappointment and despair, I will creep so much the nearer, and in lowlier confession of helplessness, towards that Cross of Christ, which, as I need it more vitally and more totally, will become more and more the one yearning and hope of my heart. The failures which drive me back with sadder but more earnest dependence, to a strength and conquest which are not in me, shall after all be made to minister, not to my ruin, but to my purification. If more and more my heart and my faith be on Him, though every resolve and effort of mine seem to fail, His presence in me shall be, even in my weakness, strength: His presence in me, embraced more and more under pressure of what would otherwise be despair, shall, in my uttermost inanition of self, be found to be Divine victory-the victory of Almighty Goodness and Love.2 [Note: R. C. Moberly.]

That Eden of earth's sunrise cannot vie

With Paradise beyond her sunset sky

Hidden on high.

Four rivers watered Eden in her bliss,

But Paradise hath One which perfect is

In sweetness.

Eden had gold, but Paradise hath gold

Like unto glass of splendours manifold

Tongue hath not told.

Eden had sun and moon to make her bright;

But Paradise hath God and Lamb for light,

And hath no night.

Unspotted innocence was Eden's best;

Great Paradise shows God's fulfilled behest,

Triumph and rest.

Hail, Eve and Adam, source of death and shame!

New life has sprung from death, and Jesu's Name

Clothes you with fame.

Hail Adam and hail Eve! your children rise

And call you blessed, in their glad surmise

Of Paradise.1 [Note: Christina G. Rossetti, Some Feasts and Fasts.]