THE GARDEN OF EDEN
There has been much speculation as to the situation of the Garden of Eden; but in vain, it is utterly impossible to ascertain its site. All vestige of it was probably swept away by the deluge. This, however, is of little moment, in comparison with the higher and more solemn moral truths with which this garden stands connected. In these the world is interested, in them, it finds its most difficult problems, and the only explanation of its present condition.
I. In this garden, provision was made for the happiness of man. This is evident from the description of the garden found in these verses.
1. The garden was beautiful. There was planted in it “every tree that is pleasant to the sight.” Beautiful scenery does much to enhance the comfort and enjoyment of man: in order to gaze upon it men will travel to the ends of the earth. By all that was lovely and inspiring in material nature, Adam was daily surrounded.
2. The garden was fruitful. “And good for food.” Hence with the beautiful in nature, there was blended all that would be needful to supply the temporal requirements of man. The material beauty by which he was surrounded was only indicative of the plenty that everywhere presented itself for his service.
3. The garden was well watered, “and a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.” Thus we cannot wonder at the beauty and fertility of this garden. The teaching of this garden is, that God intended man to enjoy a happy life. He did not design that man should be shut up in a cloister, but that he should wander amid the beautiful scenes of nature; He did not design that man should lead a melancholy and sad life, but that he should be jubilant, and that his joy should be inspired by all that was beautiful and morally good. In this happy picture of primeval life, we have God’s ideal of life, a pattern for our own.
II. In this garden, provision was made for the daily occupation of man. “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”
1. Work is the law of man’s being. Work is a divine ordination. God put Adam to it. He was the first Employer of labor. Man’s ideal of life is to have nothing to do, to be “independent” as it is called. Work is compatible with an ideal existence. It is a token of dignity; a willingness to perform it is a vestige of the former splendor of our being. People tell us that work is the result of the fall. This is not true. Man worked before he fell, but free from fatigue or pain. The element of pain which has been infused into work, that is the result of the fall. Man must work. He is prompted to it by natural instincts. He is cheered in it by happy results. He is rewarded for it by an approving conscience.
(1) Man’s work should be practical. Adam was to dress the garden. It is man’s work to develop and make God’s universe as productive as possible. Some men spend their lives in speculation; it would be far better if they would employ them in digging. Aim to be practical in your toil. The world needs practical workers. The world is full of men who want to be great workers, and they would be, if they would only undertake little tasks.
(2) Man’s work should be healthful. There is no employment more healthy than that of husbandry. It enables a man to get plenty of fresh air. It will make him stalwart. It would be much better for the health of the world if fewer men were engaged in offices and more in the broad fields.
(3) Man’s work should be taken as from God. “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden.” This will dignify work. It will inspire the worker. It will attain the full meaning of service. A man who lets God put him to his trade, is likely to be successful.
2. Work is the benediction of man’s being. Work makes men happy. Indolence is misery. If all the artisans of our country were freed from their employment tomorrow, it would not increase their joy; to what would they turn their attention? Work is the truest blessing we have. It occupies our time. It keeps from mischief. It supplies our temporal wants. It enriches society. It wins the approval of God.
III. In this garden, provision was made for the spiritual obedience of man.
1. God gave the man a command to obey. Adam was not entirely to do as he liked in this garden, one restriction was made known to him. He was to be none the less happy. He was to be none the less free. He was to be the more obedient to that Being who had so kindly ordered his circumstances. Man is not to do as he likes in this world. God places him under moral restrictions, which are for his welfare, but which he has the ability to set aside. There are certain trees in the world, of whose fruit we are not to eat. But these restrictions are not irksome or unreasonable, they refer only to one tree in all the great garden of life. Let us attend to the regulation which the gospel puts upon our use of the creatures by which we are every day surrounded.
2. God annexed a penalty in the case of disobedience.
(1) The penalty was clearly made known.
(2) It was certain in its infliction.
(3) It was terrible in its result.