The Man, the Woman and the Serpent --Part 1

The Man, the Woman and the Serpent
Part 1

Harold St. John

We appreciate that this manuscript by our deceased brother was sent to us. He being dead yet speaketh.

“And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.”

“And I saw Heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war” (Rev. 19:11).

“And I saw an angel come down from Heaven, having the key of the bottomless Pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:1-2).

“And there came unto me one of the seven angels . . . saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 21:9).

The Bible launches forth upon its long pilgrimage of sixty centuries by laying down three guiding laws, absolutely essential to human happiness and which, indeed, are the main foundations on which history rests. These three principles are each one linked with the name of one of the early great men of history, Adam, Enoch, and Noah, and are as follows:

Adam’s story teaches that God is able to repair all the ruin and misery which sin has brought in; immediately after man’s fall God arises and proclaims to our first fathers, “I can deal with sin and do it so perfectly that not a single trace of the disaster will be left.” The second rule, connected with Enoch, is that God is willing to open a highway along which man can walk with Him, and finally that he will translate His friend into Glory before death. The third law lays down, in the case of Noah, that God can remove from His universe everything that stains His glory, or threatens our happiness, and do this so honorably that not a voice will ever be raised to question His wisdom.

I fancy that the mere reading of these laws will carry every thoughtful man’s assent; to know that God can deal with my failure, walk with me, and finally remove every barrier on the road to bliss. Such principles certainly open the Gates of Peace!

The passages heading this address are taken from the threshold and from the close of Scripture, and to them we may now turn.

In each case we saw three figures upon the stage, a Man, a Woman, and a Serpent, but in Genesis they stand in the reverse order; the serpent leads the way, the woman follows, the man walks at her heels, and the result of this procession is a curse: sorrow, judgment, and death.

Passing over seventy centuries of time, we read the final pages of Scripture, and again the same three figures confront us, but, thank God, the order is now reversed! The Man leads the way, but is not the first Adam, but the Last, the Lord from Heaven, in power, and glory (Rev. XIX).

The Woman follows, no longer Eve, in her frailty, but the Bride, the Lamb’s wife, the Church, seen as the radiant product of seven millenia of divine workmanship; and last of all, the Serpent, and he is bound with a great chain, and is dropped into the Lake of Fire.

In Eden, the man and woman were naked, while the serpent was glorious in its beauty; at Patmos, the Man is seen clothed in a vesture dipped in blood, the Woman in fine linen clean and bright, both of them with the vigor of eternal youth, whilst the serpent is revealed as “that old serpent” and the devil that deceived.

These two pictures display God’s philosophy of history as the Word reveals it, and we must frankly confess that it does not square with modern thinking.

In our colleges our young folks are learning and we ourselves, in the very air that surrounds us, breathe in the belief that man has come up, through a long history, from vast depths; that he has made wonderful progress, and is destined to rise to unsealed heights.

If the theory recently adopted be a sound one, viz, that man began his journey as an electron, evolved into protoplasm, then produced an oyster, rose to be a codfish, then a monkey, and (so far) has reached manhood —why, if this be true, no man will dare predict where such an amazing and energetic being will stay his course!

We of the ancient faith, believe that our spiritual history began, not in a bed of slime, but with a revolution known as new birth, and that we are destined to arrive at full conformity with Christ. Sin and death were the depths of darkness in which we lay, and the height to which the love of Christ proposes to lift us is that we should be like Himself!

Turning to the third chapter of Genesis, we see the setting of the first tribunal in history; the Judge is there, and the three prisoners at the bar are arraigned and dealt with in the order of their guilt: the serpent first receives his sentence, then the woman, and finally the man.

In speaking of the serpent, we must at once dismiss any thought of a crawling reptile. When Adam first saw the procession of animals pass, at one point he lifted up his hands in wonder, and exclaimed “Nachash,” the Shining One! the glorious one! Thus the serpent received its name.

The term “subtle” is not here used in a bad sense; it is the same word which is translated eight times “prudent” in the Book of Proverbs.

Then we also find that the serpent was gifted with the power of speech and also was certainly erect, since its punishment was that from henceforth, he must crawl like a reptile.

The two phrases, “Upon thy belly thou shalt go” and “Dust shalt thou eat,” enshrine the two great laws which govern every sin that was ever brought to an (apparently) successful climax; sin, when it is finished, always depraves first, and then humiliates.

Take the world conqueror, who wades to the seat of power through seas of blood; if you examine the records of history, you discover, in the memoirs of such men, that in the very act of seizing the crown, the garland turns to ashes, and that the moment of success reveals the utter moral degradation “the crawling,” and “the dust,” of such a course.

Then think of a thief; he wants to steal what is property, a thing of value, while it is in its owner’s care. In the act of putting forth his hand to take it, the property becomes mere pillage, and its value has fallen one hundred percent! Sin necessarily depraves and cheapens all it touches.

Again, imagine a lawless man who thinks he knows what love is, and would fain possess the object of that love; unless he bows to the clerical sanctions which govern human relationships, love in the hour of possession will sink to mere lust. Love dies, and lust depraves!

Thus the age-long laws of God stand as firm and as undefeated as His throne, and let me warn every one here of that mysterious quality inherent in sin: the instant you grasp your coveted prize, it loses its true value, and what profit or pleasure can the commission of sin ever yield in such circumstances?

Well, Satan passes off the stage, and the Woman steps in front of the Judge, and to her he addresses Himself, pronouncing her sentence, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow …”

Now, I do not think any man or woman can hear unmoved the sentence of that sex which has borne by far the larger load of this world’s sorrow and pain, and in return has received the highest and the most sacred rewards that life can ever give.

Eve is seen in this picture not merely as the representative of a sex, but she foreshadows something much deeper, for you must remember that in these ancient Bible stories, the masculine stands for the understanding, and the reason, and the feminine represents the will, the emotions, the desires.

In Romans 5 we learn that Adam was a “figure” of Him that was to come, and is seen there as Head and Leader of a new race, and in this fact lies the key to Genesis three.

If the will leads the understanding captive, that is, if desire controls me against my reason and intelligence, that is disaster; but if a man lets his reasons guide his will, that will be blessing.

And so we see Eve. That great law by which she is to reach the glory of her life, that is, bearing children, by sorrow, by desire, and by submission. Again let me say that this is not for Eve alone, but is the great divine law which governs all fruit bearing. Travail, then desire, and then submission.

Take the history of any proposed work for God. You must first start with sorrow and travail. You remember Paul said in Galatians 4 and 19, “My little children, for whom I travail again in birth.” That was a true Mother’s soul. There was a man who brought his converts to birth by soul-travail; Paul was true to the first law of fruit-bearing, and that is travail.

Then the second law is desire. Desire means that the hands of the heart reach out, and say, “Lord, I cannot do without this.” Have you got that desire after soul fruit? Rachel said, “Give me children or I die.” Have you passed along some way of travail, and then of desire? If not, we have no right to believe that we shall have the children. No children are born in nature without travail and submission.

The third law is submission: “He shall rule over thee.” In what manner do you want to bear fruit for God? In God’s way, or in your own? God’s way is through travail, desire, and submission. If humiliation and degradation are the laws that control every act of sin, so are these three the laws that govern fruit bearing. Eve has learned the secret of fruit bearing, and has learned in these sixty-odd centuries her lesson.