A time so different from anything we ourselves have known as is the primitive time of innocence in Eden, there is necessarily difficulty in realizing or interpreting aright. Innocence we have lost, and can never regain. Nor is there anything really like it to be found in such a state as that of childhood, which, speaking comparatively only, we call the age of innocence. Much of what we deem this, is in fact but immaturity; and Adam was not immature, but a man with all the faculties of manhood fresh and vigorous in him, as come, in a perfection nowhere to be seen, out of the hand of his Creator.
Indeed, theologians, realizing this, have imagined a moral or spiritual perfection in him for which Scripture gives no warrant. It is the "new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." On the other hand, it is said that "God made man upright," which is in contrast with the craft implied ‘in the "many inventions" they have since "sought out." Let us look briefly at the whole Scripture account (confined as it is to little more than one chapter of the book of Genesis) of man’s creation, and of the condition in which he was placed in Eden, the "garden of delight."
The first words are,- "And God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’ "So God created man "-and here the words fall into a rhythmic measure, the first poetry of Scripture, as if God were rejoicing over the creature He had made-" So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him: male and female created He them." The second and briefer, yet more detailed, account is in chapter ii. "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul."
We must not expect to have man’s inner nature, however, fully revealed in this initial revelation as to him. The language is pictorial and figurative largely, according to the usual character of the Old Testament. More is hidden than is openly declared. Plainly "of the earth, earthy," as the first man is, "the dust of the earth" is not all he is. Formed, as to his bodily frame, of this, God "breathes into his nostrils," communicating thus something from Himself, by virtue of which he becomes a living soul. Not even does this expression, "a living soul," give the full reality of what he is. The beast also is, and has, a living soul, "everything wherein there is a living soul" is the description, in chapter 1:30, of every beast of the earth, and every fowl of the air, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." " Likeness" to God cannot be affirmed of such an one as this, for God is not "soul," but "spirit," and the "Father of spirits." Man is thus alone in relationship to God, as possessing not only soul, but also spirit; that "spirit of man" which "knoweth the things of a man," and is his real distinction from the beasts that, as having no link with God or God’s eternity, are "beasts that perish."
"Spirit," thus, in man, is linked with "soul." An intelligent and moral nature, which is implied in this, furnishes the affections of the heart (or soul) with objects suited to its own proper character, and lifts it thus, as it were, into its own sphere of being. Man is not a more developed beast, although he has an animal nature which resembles the beast’s. He belongs to another and higher order of life; and to this the language of chapter i. will be found to correspond in a manner all the more significant that it is not interpreted to us there, but left for the general voice of Scripture to interpret.
It has been made a question of late whether the word used for "creation" necessarily means that. Yet in the first verse of the chapter, where we are told that "in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," the bringing out of nothing must be certainly intended. After this, (with the exceptions to be just now noticed,) the word "created" is exchanged for "made;" and the whole six days’ work is characteristically a "making," as in the words of the fourth commandment; a making which is of such importance in the sight of God that it is said, in chapter ii:3 that He "created to make" it. Thus it stands, rightly, in the margin of our Bibles and in the Latin Vulgate, although few ancient or modern interpreters seem to have understood it; "creation," or the bringing out of nothing, being thus distinguished from the "making" of existing materials. We find that there are but two distinct acts of creation in the six days’ work; the first, where the "living creature," or "soul," is introduced; the second, where man is. Thus soul and spirit are distinguished from all modifications of previous existences. They are "creations "- the calling into being of that which before had none: creations successively of higher character until in man at last we find "the offspring of God."
But in man, spirit has its links with lower and preceding forms. He is a living soul, as the beast is; and this soul is the seat, not only of those affections in which it corresponds to what we call ordinarily the "heart," but also of the instincts, senses, and appetites. The adjective of soul (for which in English we have no corresponding term) is, in the New Testament, in our Authorized Version, translated twice "sensual." The same word also, both in Hebrew and Greek, stand for "soul" and "life," thus marking the soul, in distinction from the spirit, as the source of this to the body. In man thus, as a "living soul," spirit, or mind, is made dependent upon the soul, or senses, for its proper furnishing; and thus the body also becomes, in this present condition of things, a necessity to the spirit, and, if it be not in a fit state, a drag upon it - at the best, a limit beyond which it cannot pass. Men "out of the body" are called "spirits," and not souls; and the body in resurrection is a spiritual body, henceforth imposing no limit.
But this link with the body is a matter of great interest in another connection. Before man was in being, a class of spiritual existences had been created - purely such; and of these, many had already fallen away from God. Hence the tender care and wisdom of God are seen in this hedging about the new spiritual creature with restrictions which manifestly tend to "hide pride from man" in this his probationary state. Probation seems to be the rule, and so (as we may infer) the necessity, for moral beings; but the goodness of God is shown in thus fencing man round, as far as possible, with witnesses to him of creature-imperfection, perpetual preachers of humility and self-distrust.
The necessities of this mysteriously compounded nature were another argument in the same direction. In Eden, man had his wants, as out of it. Hunger was his, and thirst, although no distress could result from these, but rather new sources of enjoyment - all the trees of the garden ministering to his need. Sleep he needed for the recruiting of a frame which would otherwise have been exhausted by the putting forth of its own energies - nay, the immortal life, which was his conditionally, another tree was made to minister. He was not taught that it was his by the mere fact of what he was. He had it not as what was essential to his being, but rather the opposite - a thing foreign to him naturally, communicated by the virtues of that wondrous tree which was perpetually to sustain the wasting bodily frame. All this was thus to him constant witness of his creature-condition; on the other hand, the constant witness of divine goodness which met all this need with superabundant resources, so that appetite should be but the occasion of enjoyment, and no want be for a moment known. This was Eden, man’s garden of delight - for us, type of a greater - where all was "good," as God Himself pronounced, and no evil at all existed, nor could exist, save as man introduced it; no hand but his own could mar this beauteous picture. To all but himself it was a citadel impregnably guarded from assault.
But this leads us on to consider what was the prohibition, and what the nature of the temptation to which man yielded. One thing alone was prohibited to man, lord of all else, -the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As to this, the commandment was precise, and the penalty assured: "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." One prohibition thus served, or should have served, to keep in the mind of one who, as the image of God, was otherwise uncontrolled master of this fair domain, that he too had a Master. "Duty," as it is the thought of which man alone, and not the beast, is capable, must be necessary to his proper development as man. The moral faculties must have a field provided for their exercise, for man assuredly was from the first a moral being - that is, a being capable of discerning good and evil. I say capable; for the actual discernment plainly came afterward, when, and when alone, evil was there to be discerned. As yet, there was none, and therefore, while good was present everywhere, and its enjoyment not denied, the knowledge of even good was not as yet discriminative - was not discernment - when as yet that from which it had to be discerned was not within the field of vision. We are not to suppose a moral incapacity in innocent man which would have put him outside the pale of morality, and render a fall impossible, by leaving nothing from which to fall; neither must we suppose a mind into which the thought of evil had ever yet entered. When solicited by the fruit in the hand of his already fallen companion, "Adam was not deceived; but the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression." He, at least, with his eyes open thus far - although not yet having eaten of the tree of that fatal "knowledge "- became a transgressor. In whatever sense the eating of the forbidden fruit opened the eyes of both of them, it created no moral capacity which was not there before, implied in the very nature of a spiritual being, such as was Adam by the gift of his Creator.
Righteousness and holiness are another matter. Scripture does not affirm these of the first man. These, in the creature, represent a character which could only be the outcome of spontaneous rejection of the evil when in sight. This character was not and could not yet be found in Adam, when evil there was none in that garden of delight, planted by the hand of God Himself, for the object of His care and goodness. And herein the meaning of all that we call "probation" lies. Probation was permitted - nay, necessitated, not alone by the tree forbidden, or the tempter’s assault, but by the very constitution of a moral being - a being who apprehends, and deliberates, and wills.