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conception, birth, food, labour, the relation of the sexes, the conditions of agriculture, the existence and variety of suffering, the phenomena of conscience, and the relation of men to the evil one, as well as with the awful though universal fact of death.
Wonderfully condensed and pregnant with latent meaning as they thus are on their human side, they are not less marvellous on their Divine side; that is, in what they reveal of God, and of His character and His purposes. If His creative words and works had revealed His wisdom, power, and goodness, these utterances with their fulness of moral majesty reveal as clearly His righteousness, His justice, and His grace. That to Adam, in the hour of his utter ruin, should have been given the assurance of the redemption of his race, is in itself a proof of the Divine mercy.
At the gloomy crisis when man fell under the power of moral evil, the promise revealed the glorious goal of human history-final and complete victory over this evil. Man was not left in his self-inflicted ruin without an intimation that God had toward him purposes of redeeming grace. He was made to feel himself the subject both of judgment and of mercy, and thus was laid the foundation of all true religion in sinful beings -a consciousness of unworthiness, a sense of guilt, helplessness, and utter dependence on God, mingled with a hope based on Divine promises, and a faith built upon Divine predictions. Despair was forbidden as much as pride and self-dependence. On this dark page of human history-the first after man had passed out of his Maker's hands into his own—there fell the light of foretold redemption, like a gleam of sunshine gilding even the storm-clouds of judgment with beauty and glory.
These primitive predictions, it should be noted, were not equivocal, oracular, or but dimly comprehensible. On the contrary, they were singularly definite and simple, so that no one can misunderstand their plain meaning. If they were in one point mysterious, the mystery lay not in what was revealed, but rather in that which was left unrevealed. The mode of redemption and restoration was not made plain ; that was left a mystery which the fulfilment of the promise would alone entirely remove, but on which clearer and still clearer light was in subsequent ages to be granted. The glorious terminus only was revealed at first, not how or when it was to be reached. The scheme of Divine mercy was not fully explained, but it was made perfectly clear that such a scheme existed, and that the Almighty Creator and righteous Judge of man purposed to be also his Saviour and Redeemer.
The foreview of history given to the father of the human race after the fall consists of two contrasted portions.
1. THE PROMISE OF REDEMPTION.
2. THE PREDICTION OF THE PENAL CONSEQUENCES OF SIN.
We will consider them in this order, which is that in which Scripture presents them, and which is in itself an illustration of the truth that “mercy rejoices against judgment.” The God against whom they had sinned hastened, if we may so say, to cheer and encourage the trembling criminals with the blessed hope of ultimate recovery and restoration, before He proceeded to utter the sentence of punishment, and declare to them the inevitable results of their fall.
The Eden prophecy of redemption predicts, first, a perpetual enmity and conflict between the serpent's brood and the woman's seed ; and, secondly, the ultimate destruction of the tempter and destroyer himself, by a suffering yet victorious deliverer, who is mentioned as “the seed of the woman.” “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Not only would a fixed and inveterate enmity exist throughout the future history of the race between man and the serpent—this was but a figure of the truth-but a similar and deeper antagonism would exist between the tempter and mankind. “Thy seed,” the seed or posterity of the serpent, must mean those among men who should imbibe the devil's spirit, and be partakers of his character, subjects of his “power of darkness," as contrasted with those who should be of an opposite character. Enmity would exist between good men and bad, the conflict then commenced between man and his tempter would be continued in the history of the human race. But further and mainly, a special "seed,” a person, a great individual descendant of Eve should in due time arise in whom this conAlict would culminate: “He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." The redemption of men should be accomplished through a man, and through a suffering manone who would himself be bruised in the battle, not fatally crushed like his adversary, but yet not free from hurt. The serpent should in the end be completely destroyed, his head crushed by this “woman's seed."
Now we know who is styled by pre-eminence “the Seed," who because men are partakers of flesh and blood "Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver then who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” These words have always been held, and rightly held, to be the first promise and prophecy of the Redeemer of mankind—the Son of God, who by incarnation became “the woman's Seed.” question be fairly raised as to the fact that we have in these words the germ of the Messianic idea so largely unfolded subsequently in the Old Testament, and realized historically in the events of New Testament gospel story. What was that idea-interwoven with the histories, prophecies, laws, and ordinances of Israel, and pervading the Bible from
Matt. xxiii. 33; 1 John iii. 10.
Nor can any
beginning to end? Was it not that there should arise, as the Deliverer of sinning and suffering humanity, ONE who should Himself suffer before He triumphed, one who should be a bleeding Victor, a conquering Victim, a self-sacrificing Saviour ? The Anointed One, the Christ, was first “to suffer," and only then “to enter into His glory.” The prophets testified beforehand “the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow." Nature itself taught that, "except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” The martyred Abel, the offered Isaac, the outcast Joseph exalted to be lord of Egypt and saviour of his brethren, Moses rescued from a watery grave to be king in Jeshurun, David despised in his father's house, hated and hunted by Saul, yet father of the royal line of Judah and founder of the kingdom of Israel,—all these and similar incidents presented continually the same ideal, each adding to it some new and special feature, until Isaiah was inspired to present the perfect portrait of the Divine yet human sufferer, who was to be the victorious Saviour of men. He was to be Jehovah's servant, humbled, marred in form and in visage, without beauty or comeliness, despised, rejected, sorrowful, burdened with grief, laden with transgressions not His own, wounded, bruised, stricken of God and afflicted, oppressed and ill-used, cut off prematurely and unjustly, numbered with transgressors, laid in a grave, made a sin-offering. And yet He was to be “exalted and extolled and very high,” to have “a portion with the great” and to “divide the spoil with the strong," to justify many, to become an intercessor for transgressors, to sprinkle many nations, to be the arm or power of the Lord, and through Him all the ends of the earth should behold the salvation of God. He was to be "cut off” in the midst of His days, yet He was, as “Messiah the Prince,” to finish the transgression, and to make an end
Isa. lii., liii.
of sins; to make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness; to cause Jewish sacrifice and oblation to cease, and to confirm a covenant with many." to be “a child born” to Israel, and yet "the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace.”
Now though in the light of its own fulfilment and realization in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, this MESSIANIC IDEAL has become familiar to the mind of Christendom, what mystery must have overshadowed it, and what perplexities must have attended any attempt to give it even in imagination a definite embodiment previously to the event ! How impossible therefore that it could have been a mere human invention, whether of Moses or of Adam or of any one else! Here, in the earliest prophecy of Scripture, a document dating back at least to the days of Moses, and possibly much further, we meet with the distinct germ and embryo of this strange, mysterious, peculiar Messianic ideal, predictions which subsequently shaped for ages the expectations of a nation, and the fulfilment of which in history has since shaped for ages more the experience of a world.
It is true that the Jews lost sight of one half of the ideal -the foretold sufferings of Messiah—and dwelt only in anticipation on His glories ; but this makes it only the more remarkable that the Scriptures of the prophets, which they read continually in their synagogues, should present so fully and so frequently a feature as to which the people were blinded. Whence did they get this ideal? Whence did Moses get it? Or if, as some think, Moses embodied in Genesis documents which even in his day belonged to a primitive antiquity, whence did the writers of those documents get this notion of the double bruising, the suffering Victor, the tried but triumphant Redeemer of mankind ? Place the date of the birth of this ideal where we will, it must have been in existence before the death of Moses, else we could not meet it in the Penta
i Dan. ix. 24-27.