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Yet, behold! that which was man's store-house, was also his work-house; his pleasure was his task: paradise served not only to feed his senses, but to exercise his hands. If happiness had consisted in doing nothing, man had not been employed; all his delights could not have made him happy in an idle life. Man therefore is no sooner made, than he is set to work: neither greatness nor perfection can privilege a folded hand; he must labour because he was happy; how much more we, that we may be! This first labour of his was, as without necessity, so without pains, without weariness: How much more cheerfully we go about our businesses, so much nearer we come to our paradise.
Neither did these trees afford him only action for his hands, but instruction to his heart; for here he saw God's sacraments grow before him; all other trees had a natural use, these two in the midst of the garden a spiritual. Life is the act of the soul, knowledge the life of the soul; the tree of knowledge, and the tree of life, then were ordained as earthly helps of the spiritual part. Perhaps he which ordained the end, immortality of life, did appoint this fruit as the means of that life. It is not for us to inquire after the life we had, and the means we should have had. I am sure it served to nourish the soul by a lively representation of that living tree, whose fruit is eternal life, and whose leaves serve to heal the nations.
O infinite mercy! man saw his Saviour before him, ere he had need of a Saviour: he saw in whom he should recover an heavenly life, ere he lost the earthly. But after he had tasted of the tree of knowledge, he might not taste of the tree of life; that immortal food was not for a mortal stomach: yet then did he most favour that invisible tree of life, when he was most restrained from the other.
O Saviour! none but a sinner can relish thee; my taste hath been enough seasoned with the forbidden fruit, to make it capable of thy sweetness; sharpen thou as well the stomach of my soul by repenting; by believing, so shall I eat, and, in despite of Adam, live for ever. The one tree was for confirmation, the other for trial: one shewed him what life he should have, the other what knowledge he should not desire to have; Alas! he, that knew all other things, knew not this one thing, that he knew enough: how divine a thing is knowledge, whereof even innocency itself is ambitious! Satan
knew what he did: if this bait had been gold, or honour, or pleasure, man had contemned; who can hope to avoid error, when even man's perfection is mistaken? He looked for speculative knowledge, he should have looked for experimental; he thought it had been good to know evil! good was large enough to have perfected his knowledge, and therein his blessedness.
All that God made was good, and the Maker of them much more good; they good in their kinds, he good in himself. It would not content him to know God and his creatures; his curiosity affected to know that which God never made, evil of sin, and evil of death, which indeed himself made by desiring to know them: now we know evil well enough, and smart with knowing it. How dear hath this lesson cost us, that in some cases it is better to be ignorant! and yet do the sons of Eve inherit this saucy appetite of their grandmother; how many thousand souls miscarry with the presumptuous affectation of forbidden knowledge!
O God, thou hast revealed more than we can know, enough to make us happy; teach me a sober knowledge, and a contented ignorance.
Paradise was made for man, yet there I see the serpent: what marvel is it, if my corruption find the serpent in my closet, in my table, in my bed, when our holy parents found him in the midst of Paradise? No sooner he is entered, but he tempteth: he can no more be idle, than harmless. I do not see him at any other tree; he knew there was no danger in the rest; I see him at the tree forbidden. How true a serpent he is in every point! in his insinuation to the place, in his choice of the tree, in his assault of the woman, in his plausibleness of speech to avoid terror, in his question to move doubt, in his reply to work distrust, in his protestation of safety, in his suggestion to envy and discontent, in his promise of gain.
And if he was so cunning at the first, what shall we think of him now, after so many thousand years experience? Only thou, O God! and these angels that see thy face, are wiser than he. I do not ask why, when he left his goodness, thou didst not bereave him of his skill? Still thou wouldst have him an angel, though an evil one: and thou knowest how to ordain his craft to thine own glory. I do not desire thee to abate of his subtilty, but to make me wise: let me beg it,
without presumption, make me wiser than Adam; even thine image which he bore, made him not (through his own weakness) wise enough to obey thee; thou offeredst him all fruits, and restrainedst but one; Satan offered him but one, and restrained not the rest. When he chose rather to be at Satan's feeding than thine, it was just with thee to turn him out of thy gates with a curse: why shouldst thou feed a rebel at thine own board?
And yet we transgress daily, and thou shuttest not heaven against us: how is it that we find more mercy than our forefather? His strength is worthy of severity, our weakness finds pity. That God from whose face he fled in the garden, now makes him with shame to flee out of the garden: those angels that should have kept him, now keep the gates of Paradise against him. It is not so easy to recover happiness, as to keep it or lose it; yea, the same cause that drave man from Paradise hath also withdrawn Paradise from the world.
That fiery sword did not defend it against those waters wherewith the sins of men drowned the glory of that place: neither now do I care to seek where that Paradise was which we lost: I know where that Paradise is, which we must care to seek, and hope to find. As man was the image of God, so was that earthly Paradise an image of heaven; both the images are defaced, both the first parents are eternal: Adam was in the first, and staid not: in the second, is the second Adam, which said, "This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." There was that chosen vessel, and heard, and saw what could not be expressed: by how much the third heaven exceeds the richest earth; so much doth that Paradise, whereto we aspire, exceed that which we have lost.
Look now, O my soul! upon the two first brethren, perhaps twins, and wonder at their contrary dispositions and estates. If the privileges of nature had been worth any thing, the first-born child should not have been a reprobate.
Now, that we may ascribe all to free grace, the elder is a murderer, the younger a saint: though goodness may be repaired in ourselves, yet it cannot be propagated to ours:
now might Adam see the image of himself in Cain, for after his own image begot he him; Adam slew his posterity, Cain his brother. We are too like one another, in that wherein we are unlike to God: even the clearest grain sends forth that chaff from which it was fanned ere the sowing: yet is this Cain a possession. The same Eve that mistook the fruit of the garden, mistook also the fruit of her own body, her hope deceived her in both; so, many good names are ill bestowed; and our comfortable expectations in earthly things do not seldom disappoint us.
Doubtless their education was holy; for Adam, though in Paradise he could not be innocent, yet was a good man out of Paradise; his sin and fall now made him circumspect; and since he saw that his act had bereaved them of that image of God, which he once had for them, he could not but labour, by all holy endeavours, to repair it in them, that so his care might make amends for his trespass. How plain is it, that even good breeding cannot alter destiny! That which is crooked can none make straight; who would think that brethren, and but two brethren, should not love each other? Dispersed love grows weak, and fewness of objects useth to unite affections: if but two brothers be left alive of many, they think that the love of all the rest should survive in them; and now the beams of their affection are so much the hotter, because they reflect mutually in a right line upon each other: yet behold, here are but two brothers in a world, and one is the butcher of the other. Who can wonder at dissentions amongst thousands of brethren, when he sees so deadly opposition betwixt two, the first roots of brotherhood? Who can hope to live plausibly and securely amongst so many Cains, when he sees one Cain the death of one Abel? The same devil that set enmity betwixt man and God, sets enmity betwixt man and man; and yet God said, "I will put enmity between thy seed and her seed." Our hatred of the serpent and his seed is from God: their hatred of the holy seed is from the serpent: behold here at once, in one person, the seed of the woman and of the serpent; Cain's natural parts are of the woman, his vicious qualities of the serpent: the woman gave him to be a brother, the serpent to be a manslayer; all uncharitableness, all quarrels are of one author: we cannot entertain wrath, and not give place to the devil. Certainly so deadly an act must needs be deeply grounded.
What then was the occasion of this capital malice? Abel's sacrifice is accepted; what was this to Cain? Cain's is rejected; what could Abel remedy this? O envy! the corrosive of all ill minds, and the root of all desperate actions. The same cause that moved Satan to tempt the first man to destroy himself and his posterity, the same moves the second man to destroy the third.
It should have been Cain's joy to see his brother accepted; it should have been his sorrow to see that himself had deserved a rejection; his brother's example should have excited and directed him. Could Abel have staid God's fire from descending? or should he (if he could) reject God's acceptation, and displease his Maker, to content a brother? Was Cain ever the farther from a blessing, because his brother obtained mercy? How proud and foolish is malice! which grows thus mad for no other cause but because God or Abel is not less good. It hath been an old and happy danger to be holy; indifferent actions must be careful to avoid offence; but I care not what devil or what Cain be angry that I do good, or receive good.
There was never any nature without envy: every man is born a Cain, hating that goodness in another which he neglected in himself. There was never envy that was not bloody; for if it eat not another's heart, it will eat our own; but unless it be restrained, it will surely feed itself with the blood of others, ofttimes in act, always in affection. And that God, which (in good) accepts the will for the deed, condemns the will for the deed in evil. If there be an evil heart, there will be an evil eye; and if both these, there will be an evil hand.
How early did martyrdom come into the world! The first man that died, died for religion; who dare measure God's love by outward events, when he sees wicked Cain standing over bleeding Abel, whose sacrifice was first accepted, and now himself is sacrificed! Death was denounced to man as a curse; yet, behold! it first lights upon a saint: how soon was it altered by the mercy of that just hand which inflicted it! If death had been evil, and life good, Cain had been slain, and Abel had survived. Now that it begins with him that God loves, "O death, where is thy sting!"
Abel says nothing-his blood cries. Every drop of innocent blood hath a tongue, and is not only vocal, but importu