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In most instances it brings little even And what of him whom the Lord made in His own 'image and likeness, and only for a little while 'a little lower than the angels'? Man was divinely appointed lord and ruler of all. The entire terrestrial creation was put under his feet, and made subject to his dominion, and if only he had maintained his loyalty to the Supreme Ruler, his own supremacy would have been everlastingly continued and established, and the kingdom over which he reigned become more and more fruitful and beautiful for evermore.
But, alas! all things which were new at the beginning, and designed to continue new for ever, became old and began to perish. How was this tremendous and appalling change effected ? It was brought about in a very natural and understandable way, though many persons find a great difficulty in clearly apprehending it. Let us try to make it plain. And first of all, let it be clearly understood that man's loyalty to God required to be tested. This was an absolute necessity, for only by an intelligent and personal rejection of evil and choice of good, could moral character be formed and immor
tality realized. Though not immortal by creation, he was made for an endless existence, but this could be attained only by the formation and development of a Godlike character. The great Creator gave to him his wonderful threefold nature, with all its marvellous powers and possibilities, but not character. Character could not be given as a gift, but must be fashioned and built up by man himself through a voluntary and loving obedience to the Divine commandments. Therefore he was necessarily placed in a sphere of moral liberty, in which both Good and Evil
were set before him, one of which he must personally and intelligently choose. Had he been divinely compelled to choose the Good, the choice would not have been his 'own, but God's choice, by which character in man could neither have been formed nor cultured.
Freedom is absolutely essential to virtue. The Lord God instructed
to choose the good and refuse the evil ; but having invited, warned, and foretold results, He could
Man must be free to choose. And there
no necessity that his choice should be wrong, for he had no inherent ten
dency to become disobedient, and however strong or subtle any external temptation might be that could possibly be set before him, he had power to resist it. Not only so, but he had also every inducement to influence his mind and will in the right direction. He knew that the choice of Good would bring to him every possible blessing and blessedness, and also that the choice of Evil would issue in disaster and misery, for the Creator said, 'In the day that thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die.' And yet, when the hour of trial came, he yielded to temptation, and allowed himself to be deceived. He fell, and his fall was great and terrible. It was a fall from innocence into guilt, from purity into sinfulness, from harmony into discord, and from trust and love into fear and alienation. The effects upon himself were awful ; his spirit lost its true life, his understanding was darkened, his will perverted, his heart polluted, and his body made subject to the law of sin and death. And when thus the monarch fell from his throne and became a lost and ruined creature, his kingdom fell with him. It suffered shock and injury. The operation of evil did not
end in humanity. It went forth into Nature, and breathed its blighting and destructive influence over all living and inanimate things. The atmosphere is full of pestilential vapours, which are continually wafted abroad on the wings of the wind, waters are polluted, the earth is tainted, and all the lower creatures are more or less sufferers through the fallen condition of mankind.
"Nature, red in tooth and claw,” presents a dark and perplexing problem may be freely granted, but as a friend of our own says in a letter to us on this subject—"If Nature has claws, she is certainly not all claws. Nay, her claws are but a very small part of her, and why should we be always staring at these, and neglecting her abundant beauties? And if it be asked why she should have claws at all, there is an answer to this also. We may not be able to give it fully, but we are sure that it lies in this direction, that if Nature is not in every part of her a true teacher and revealer of God, it is only because she has been marred, both in her condition and working, by sin.” Or as another—whose name we do not know—has truly said—“Nature is not to be judged by her
perversions but by her general tendencies; and the very existence of pain and suffering shows an interference with these general tendencies, suffering being Nature's protest against them as being unnatural.” "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. Said the great Creator - Cursed is the ground for thy sake. Take, an illustration.
“The curse," says Professor Balfour, “which has been pronounced the vegetable creation, may be seen in the production of thorns in place of branches—thorns which, while they are leafless, are at the same time the cause of injury to man.
That thorns are abortive branches, is well seen in
where by cultivation they disappear. In such cases they are transformed into branches. The wild apple is a thorny plant, but on cultivation it is not so. These changes are the result of a constant high state of cultivation, and may show us what might take place were the curse removed.” As inflicted by man the curse is chiefly a curse of corruption, and as inflicted by God it is a curse of deprivation, or, in other words, a withholding
, from the soil of that fulness of blessing which,