Greater Men and Women of the Bible by James Hastings: 004. Adam as a Man

Online Resource Library

Commentary Index | Return to | Download

Greater Men and Women of the Bible by James Hastings: 004. Adam as a Man

Subjects in this Topic:


Adam as a Man

The Ethical Interest

Two things the Church of Christ has agreed to hold regarding Adam as an individual. They are of course true also of Adam as man, for they are true of all men. But they are to be taken by each individual and made a matter of conscience for himself.

1. The first thing is that having made man for ethical fellowship, God has entered into a covenant with him. On the side of man the condition is moral obedience, on God's side protection and love. Nothing can destroy the obligation on man's part to fulfil this covenant-no plea of original sin, no argument from the solidarity of the race. Under all circumstances and on every man lies the obligation to “keep the commandments.” Now we see this obligation in its simplest form in Adam. Fellowship with God is emphasized as the one blessedness of his life, and the condition of fellowship is obedience to the law of God, expressed on the heart and conscience.

Providence has called me to be the witness [in Rome] of a most interesting scene lately-the death of a poor Swiss artist, a peaceful and faithful follower of Christ. His lungs had been attacked some years ago. The winter was very severe, and the health of this poor man (I should not say poor, for he is rich), evidently declined apace. He was without friends, without comforts, without sleep, for whenever he lay down the cough seized him, and in a country whose language was strange to him; but he was not without God, and God was to him friends, and comfort, and rest, and home. I arrived here about the middle of February, and got acquainted with him, and saw him occasionally. He could go about and walk a little then, and he used to come and sit with Mr. Noel and me from time to time; and we always found him most edifying, as far as his extreme modesty would permit him to communicate to us his Christian experience. For long, he had been much in the habit of living much alone, and of speaking more to God than to man; and this high intercourse had left its traces on him-its blessed traces of holiness and peace. As the spring advanced, he got worse and weaker, and in April he became unable to leave his room. I saw a great deal of him then. He used to tell me that his sleepless nights were delightful opportunities of communion with God. The joy which filled his heart received very little abatement from his disease. On the day before his death he told me that he had had moments that day which he could not express-“des moments inexprimables.” “You who are in health,” he said, “can scarcely conceive the manifestations which God makes to His people as they stand on the brink of the grave.” He has finished his course, and kept the faith, and received the crown.1 [Note: Letters of Thomas Erskine of Linlathen, i. 61.]

I seek not of Thine Eden-land

The forms and hues to know,-

What trees in mystic order stand,

What strange, sweet waters flow;

What duties fill the heavenly day,

Or converse glad and kind;

Or how along each shining way

The bright processions wind.

Oh joy! to hear with sense new born

The angels' greeting strains,

And sweet to see the first fair morn

Gild the celestial plains.

But sweeter far to trust in Thee

While all is yet unknown,

And through the death-dark cheerily

To walk with Thee alone!

In Thee my powers, my treasures live,

To Thee my life shall tend;

Giving Thyself, Thou all dost give,

O soul-sufficing Friend.

And wherefore should I seek above

The city in the sky?

Since firm in faith and deep in love

Its broad foundations lie;

Since in a life of peace and prayer,

Not known on earth, nor praised,

By humblest toil, by ceaseless care,

Its holy towers are raised.

Where pain the soul hath purified,

And penitence hath shriven,

And truth is crowned and glorified,

There-only there-is Heaven. 1 [Note: Eliza Scudder, Hymns and Sonnets.]

2. The second thing is that disobedience issues in death. There are three kinds of death-physical, social, spiritual. Physical death, the death of the body, is the result of disobedience in so far as it is painful or premature. Social death, or the loss of fellowship between man and man, is due to disobedience, because it is sin that is the occasion of all estrangement. Spiritual death is the loss of God's favour and friendship. This, the greatest thing, covering the rest, is made most prominent in the story of the Fall.

There is a delightful passage in the Personal Reminiscences of Carmen Sylva, the Queen of Roumania, which shows that while death, physical, social, and spiritual, finds its sting in disobedience, that sting may by obedience be so removed that spiritual and social death are annihilated, while physical death becomes natural and welcome. Speaking of Fraulein von Bunsen, Carmen Sylva says: By her perfect submission to the Divine Will, her firm faith which no doubt had ever clouded, no less than by her unswerving fidelity in friendship, and the cheerful sunny temperament that had in it something of the playfulness and simplicity of a child, Aunt Mim (as we called her) was the pearl of her whole family and became invaluable and indispensable to ours. In those hours of greatest suffering, when words of good cheer could no more avail, then her quiet sympathy would yet often find means of making life a little more endurable to the poor sick child, of distracting my father's thoughts from present sadness. Only one so utterly detached from all thoughts of self could have refreshed and lightened that atmosphere of gloom. So heavily did it press at times on my childish mind, and so thoroughly had my mother inculcated the belief in death as the supreme good to be wished and desired by us all, as the sole release from pain and suffering for ourselves and others, that during the weeks in which, after my brother Otto's birth, she lay between life and death, my governess often heard me praying that God would take her to Himself! It caused some perplexity, I believe, to her who heard this singular prayer, to hit on the right method of bringing me to desist from it, without disturbing the effect of the maternal teaching, and she wisely contented herself with telling me that although it would doubtless be for Mamma's happiness to go to heaven, I need not ask for this, as God would take her to Himself in His own good time, and that moreover I should then see her no more. I was very much astonished at this, never having for a moment contemplated the possibility of being deprived of my mother's presence by death. My idea of heaven was of something so real and near that whenever I gazed up into the blue sky, I felt sure that, were my beloved ones there, I might at any moment see a little window opening to let me through to join them! Well is it with us, if we can keep this belief through life; if like children, who have left their heavenly home too recently to accustom themselves to this earth, and could depart again from it without a pang, we can but bear in mind during the whole course of our dreary pilgrimage, that we have here no abiding place, and keep our hopes fixed on the life beyond!1 [Note: From Memory's Shrine, Personal Reminiscences of Carmen Sylva (1912), 127.]

This is how the biography of Charles Kingsley ends: “Death is not death, then, if it kills no part of us save that which hindered us from perfect life. Death is not death, if it raises us from darkness into light, from weakness into strength, from sinfulness into holiness. Death is not death, if it brings us nearer to Christ, who is the fount of life. Death is not death, if it perfects our faith by sight, and lets us behold Him in whom we have believed. Death is not death, if it gives to us those whom we have loved and lost, for whom we have lived, for whom we long to live again. Death is not death, if it rids us of doubt and fear, of chance and change, of space and time, and all which space and time bring forth, and then destroy. Death is not death; for Christ has conquered death, for Himself, and for those who trust in Him. And to those who say, ‘You were born in Time, and in Time you must die, as all other creatures do: Time is your king and Lord, as he has been of all the old worlds before this, and of all the races of beasts, whose bones and shells lie fossil in the rocks of a thousand generations'; then we can answer them in the words of the wise Poet, and in the name of Christ, who conquered death:

Fly, envious Time, till thou run out thy race,

Call on the lazy leaden-stepping hours

Whose speed is but the heavy Plummet's pace;

And glut thy self with what thy womb devours,

Which is no more than what is false and vain

And merely mortal dross;

So little is our loss,

So little is thy gain.

For when as each bad thing thou hast entomb'd,

And last of all, thy greedy self consum'd,

Then long Eternity shall greet our bliss

With an individual kiss;

And Joy shall overtake us as a flood,

When every thing that is sincerely good

And perfectly divine,

And Truth, and Peace, and Love shall ever shine

About the supreme Throne

Of Him, t'whose happy-making sight alone

When once our heav'nly-guided soul shall climb,

Then all this Earthy grossness quit,

Attir'd with Stars, we shall for ever sit,

Triumphing over Death, and Chance, and thee O Time!1 [Note: Life of Charles Kingsley, ii. 356.]